When is a bird of prey not a raptor?

Not my photo, alas. ©2004 Cornell Lab of Ornithology

When it’s a Northern Shrike, that’s when.  It resembles a stocky mockingbird, but with a heavy hooked beak designed to break the neck of its prey. No talons, though, so it doesn’t fall into the raptor category. Sometimes called Butcherbird for its habit of putting food aside for later, impaling it on thorns or barbed wire (sometimes while still alive, ew).

It being my birthday yesterday, I started my day off with a slice of cake and headed out birding. Papscanee was quieter than last week, both trucks and ducks, but I did make a point of pulling well off the road. It was grey, chilly, and windy, the flooded fields glazed with ice, and the birds were hunkered down. I was watching some sexual harassment among mallards when a flutter in the brush caught my eye. A catbird? mockingbird? It kept dashing in a heavy flit, rushing between and beneath branches. Finally it flew to the top twig and perched for several minutes letting me get a good look.

In color, very like a Mockingbird, though without the white wing patches in flight. A murderous-looking beak — an old German name for the Shrike was Werkenvogel, choking bird. I tried to get a photo, but grey bird + grey sky + grey branches = failure. Still, it was an excellent view of a Life Bird. Quite a birthday present!

Papscanee, Five Rivers, and home:

Canada Goose, Snow Goose (still only one), Mallard, Red-winged Blackbird, Black Duck, American Crow, Green-winged Teal, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Northern Shrike, Fish Crow, Common Grackle, American Robin, Blue Jay, Double-crested Cormorant, Red-tailed Hawk, Ring-billed Gull, European Starling, Black-capped Chickadee, Dark-eyed Junco, Brown-headed Cowbird, Mourning Dove, Rock Pigeon, House Sparrow, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Tree Sparrow, Tufted Titmouse, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Turkey Vulture, American Goldfinch, Northern Flicker, Fox Sparrow, Wood Duck.

35 species, 2 new to this list, 1 life bird.

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Categories: Field trip, Life bird!, New bird, Species count | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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