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Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Northern Shrike (Pie-grièche grise)

18 December 2019

     Northern Shrike (Lanius borealis) is a bird that spends the winter in our area, and is always an exciting bird to find. 


     It helps to know where they traditionally appear for they seem to be faithful to their winter quarters.
     Although not uncommon, it is a bird that is infrequently encountered. Miriam and I were out doing errands this morning, and knew where we might expect one, and made our way to the area where we have seen the bird in the past.
     We were not disappointed.


     The bird was perched atop a small sapling and by using the car as a blind we were able to approach quite closely, pulled off to the side of the road I might add, to the consternation of other vehicles I have no doubt!
     It was prone to flying off, but never far, and by careful stalking we were able to secure a few reasonably decent pictures.


     This species is coloquially known as a Butcher Bird by some, due to its habit of impaling its prey on thorns or barbed wire to soften them up for consumption later. It is not often that I have seen this larder, and I have no idea where this bird might maintain it.
     I expect we will see it several more times during the winter as we revisit the area. It never fails to excite and please us.

70 comments:

  1. Haven't seen one for years, but I remember seeing the results of its 'butchering' on a wire fence when I was a beginning birdwatcher still in high school.

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  2. This little grey bird is watching for prey. I'm not sure I would like to see it acting like a butcher.

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  3. What a beauty - and very different to our Australian Butcher Bird Sometimes I think those responsible for naming birds have a severe lack of imagination.

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  4. We have its cousin, the Loggerhead Shrike, here. Very interesting birds with their unique lifestyle.

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  5. Ah! How sweet is that bird and such a lovely calm colour.

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  6. It’s a beautiful creature David!

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  7. Hari OM
    what a darling wee fellow to be spotting in the winter!!! YAM xx

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  8. A gorgeous critter, I love its colors. I suppose impaling your food is one way to know where it is :)

    It's terrific to see you at 'My Corner of the World' this week!

    My Corner of the World

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  9. What a lovely bird David, but I didn't like the terrible Butcher Bird name ;)
    The nature ruthless, but that's the way it is. They do what they need to survive.

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    1. The reason that it impales the food, Marit, is to soften it up. It is not equipped with a really strong bill for tearing the food apart and needs it to "age" for a few days.

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  10. This bird is new to me. There is a bird here with similar habits of impaling it's food on thorns, but I have never seen it, either. Thanks for sharing and have a great day, Valerie

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    1. The bird you have there, Valerie, is the Great Grey Shrike - very similar.

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  11. Oh quel adorable petit oiseau!
    Ici je vois moins d'oiseaux ces jours ci car il fait plus chaud, ce qui est vraiment bizarre pour cette époque...
    Et on va avoir beaucoup de vent ce soir!
    Bonne journée

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  12. Hi David,
    the brid looks wonderful against the softblue sky. Lovely pictures.

    Best regards, Corrie

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  13. The Fiscal Shrike in South Africa is also called a butcher bird, think it is a name that follows the shrike species. The Northern shrike is pretty and as always great photos.
    Have a good day, Diane

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    1. And, of course, you have Great Grey Shrike in France, Diane,

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  14. En riktigt liten "goding" som Miriam verkligen lyckats att fotografera, fina bilder! Jag har förstås aldrig sett den men läst om den på grund av dess något märkliga sätt att anrätta sin mat. Amerikansk törnskata heter den på svenska och namnet anspelar just på att den spetsar sin mat på törnen.

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  15. Precioso ese Alcaudón amigo David. Sabes siempre donde encontrar lo que te propones, señal de conocer a la perfección las costumbres y zonas de las aves por donde transcurren.
    Un fuerte abrazo para todos vosotros y un beso para Miriam por si no volvemos a escribir por aquí, que paséis unas entrañables y queridas fiestas en compañía de vuestros seres queridos y que él próximo año sigamos leyendo de nuestras pequeñas aventuras sobre la naturaleza de este maravilloso planeta llamado Tierra amigo y compadre David
    ¡¡FELIZ NAVIDAD!! Y PROSPERO AÑO NUEVO.

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  16. I've yet to see a Shrike, we do get them here but not so regularly unfortunately. The bird looks quite cute here, hard to think it has such a way with its prey!

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  17. Hi David.

    What a nice little bird.
    Nice that above beak

    Greeting from Patricia.

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  18. I simply love it! I call him "Zorro" because of the black mask on his eyes. ;)

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  19. We have both the loggerhead shrike and the occasional northern shrike. Is it possible that a taxonomic change has occurred? Our loggerhead is listed by Cornell as Lanius ludovicianus. When I did a bit of exploring, I found they had the northern shrike listed as Lanius borealis. In any event, the behavior you described is familiar. The first time I saw a shrike, it had a nestling in its grip.

    There's one that hangs out in a tree that looks much like yours at a local wildlife refuge. Every time I go there in winter (for three years, now) that bird, or another shrike, is perched in the very same spot. I'm still waiting for it to face me, or perch in profile, so I can get a decent photo from the car. As soon as I get out, that bird is gone.

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  20. I've not seen a shrike for a few years now, David, and the last Great Grey I saw was not accepted by our records committee as, sadly, I failed to get a photo before it disappeared. They also have earned that same epithet in UK. Super shots of a lovely bird!

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  21. Loggerhead Shrike and Northern Shrike are two different species, Linda. However, taxonomic change has occurred, but only as it affects Northern Shrike which was formerly designated Lanius excubitor and was considered the same species as the Great Grey Shrike of Europe. However, DNA analysis confirmed that they are different species; Great Grey Grey Shrike retains the specific designation excubitor and Northern Shrike becomes borealis.

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    1. Thanks for that. DNA analysis has brought a lot of changes to taxonomy in the plant world, as well. All those changes can be perplexing, however reasonable and justified they may be!

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    2. Glad you found the reply further down, Linda. Sometimes I forget to hit "reply as."

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  22. Por aquí tenemos varios de ellos. Más adelante pondré algunas fotografías. Las fotos muy lindas como siempre. Abrazos.

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  23. That quite a niche that bird inhabits. Incredible really.

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  24. I have to look closely at every mockingbird I see during the winter. I am always hoping it is a shrike. Great photos!

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    1. Most of the time its going to be a mockingbird....but you never know! Here, Northern Mockingbird is still relatively uncommon, so either species is a treat.

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  25. An admirable balance and an interesting bird by its size.

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  26. Fantástico reportaje del Lanius ludocvicianus, es muy parecido a nuestro Lanius meridionalis, un género que me encanta. Amigo David te deseo una FELIZ NAVIDAD y un próspero Año Nuevo, que venga repleto de buenos momentos en la Naturaleza, extraordinarias fotografías y siempre rodeado de buena gente. Un fuerte abrazo desde España.

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  27. Interesting birds with their propensity to store food in a unique way. I’ve never seen a cache myself despite looking.

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  28. I have yet to find a Northern Shrike, it's on my wish list!

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    1. Just come up here and I will take you to see this one.

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  29. These are just charming, so petite and pretty. I don't think I've ever seen one at my feeder or otherwise, but I'm delighted they've found a spot by you!

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    1. The only reason they would ever appear at your feeders, Jeanie, would be to pick off an unwary songbird, but it is highly unlikely that a shrike would visit your yard. If I see three or four individuals a year I consider myself fortunate.

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  30. Great photos and it is interesting to know that this adorable bird is colloquially known as a Butcher Bird.

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  31. A handsome bird! I always enjoy your photos. Thank you for linking up today.

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  32. These are great pics! It seems to be looking right at you in the last pic! I've never seen one.

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  33. Hello David, I was lucky to see the Européen Shrike and like with your region it is also not that often seen. So like you I was excited. The photos Mirian took are splendid. Than I wish you and your loved ones happy holidays and for 2020 good health and great birding.
    Regards,
    Roos

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  34. If they're anything like the Great Grey Shrikes that winter here occasionally they are infuriating birds: birder number one goes along to where they've been reported and sees nothing, then birder number two comes along and finds it sitting on an obvious perch where all can see it. I often seem to be birder number one in this scenario! So well done on making contact with this species.

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    1. I am sure there is some of that here, John. The critical thing is to understand their habitat preferences. Once you know that, a dedicated search will generally turn one up, and they are often faithful to their wintering sites so that knowledge helps too.

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  35. Cudowne zdjęcia srokosza! One są bardzo płochliwe. Mieszkam nad jeziorem i tam jest gniazdo srokosza, ale tylko pozwala się oglądać przez lornetkę.

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  36. Gorgeous little bird! Thanks for sharing!
    I thank you for all your comments on my blog ... I am still so busy these days!

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  37. Debe ser muy resistente al frío, quizás lo que lleve peor es el calor. lo digo por los más de 40º que tenemos en la zona de Córdoba.

    Besos

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  38. This species is quite scarce in our area. One per winter if we are lucky. Fortunately I have seen lots of their global sub-species cousins, as portrayed in my last two blog posts. The variations are quite remarkable, very often found only by newly discovered techniques of DNA sampling etc. To me your pictures look remarkably like the the Desert Grey Shrike, formerly known as Southern Grey Shrike etc, etc but I realise you have very little desert in Ontario.

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  39. Hi David - beautiful photos ... while that beak is some 'needle' - it can certainly spike things, even if not actually bludgeon said prey to death ... just quietly leaving it to hang to age, until ready to eat. Cheers Hilary

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  40. A beautiful little bird balancing on the small branch perfectly.

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  41. Hi David,
    Sounds very similar to our Great Grey Shrike, a bird I have only seen once but then a long distance away. Another super set of images Miriam.
    All the best,
    John

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  42. Oh, wow fantastic close-up portraits of the Ñorthern Shrike!
    Usually I go with Marianne at this time of year to spot the Northern Shrike! But not this year..... Last year we saw a shrike with a beetle in his mouth. Then he poked the beetle to a thorny bush! His winter stock. ;-)
    Happy weekend,
    Best wishes Maria

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  43. Hi David, great photo's of this nice shrike. Fantastic birds. As Maria wrote above, we normally visit 'our' shrike this time of the year. Great pleasure so I can imagine you both were happy to see the species and that Miriam was able to take nice pictures. I like it that you see the little 'hook' on the beak.

    Enjoy the weekend,
    Marianne

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  44. What a cute bird until I read the bit about the Butcher Bird! It certainly is a creative way to make dinner.

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  45. Hi David,
    I have seen these shrikes already a few times this winter. During one hike I didn't have my camera with me, the bird took me by surprise. At another spot I have seen a shrike already during three different moments. I am quite satisfied with the pictures I could take so far, although I couldn't come as close as you did.
    Hopefully more next year,
    Merry Christmas to you and Miriam.
    Kees

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  46. Hello David and Miriam,
    what a beautiful pictures of this klapekster!
    The klapekster has been on my wnesen list for a long time and in the Netherlands you also see it in some places. Unfortunately I have not come across one myself ;-)
    Now I am enjoying your photos.
    Dear greetings, Helma

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  47. Thank you David... The same to you and yours... Merry christmas..
    Btw.. Beautiful shots...

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  48. Hola David. Es una hermosa ave y las fotos maravillosas. Felices fiestas para vosotros y vuestra familia. Un fuerte abrazo para los dos.

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  49. I saw a shrike once. I just happened to glance out the window. It was such a treat.
    You have such beautiful photos. Well done.

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  50. Beautiful bird, great shots.
    I wish to you and to your loved ones, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
    Greetings
    Maria

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  51. We don't have many winter birds. Of course, our resident ravens never leave. - Margy

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  52. A lovely gray bird.
    Wonderful photos, David:)

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  53. I knew this bird through documentaries, bibliography and photographs but I had no idea it was in Canada; I found his behavior and technique of storing his prey fascinating. I always learned something new

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  54. What lovely soft colouring this bird has … wonderful series of photographs.

    All the best Jan

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  55. A lovely bird, and good of it to pose for you.

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