About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Grey and black bird with a hawk beak

When I heard a few small birds strike the window I went to investigate. I saw a beautiful grey shrike perched on the treetop. ~ Grand Rapid, MI

Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor)
with Striped Field Mouse (Apodemus agrarius) propped up on thorn.
Northern Shrikes, the world's only true carnivorous songbirds, breed in the boreal forest way north of us but appear in Michigan each winter for sporadic visits. Shrikes are also known as "butcher birds" because of their habit of catching small birds, mammals, and insects and impaling their bodies on thorns or any available sharp point. This helps them to tear the flesh into smaller, more conveniently-sized fragments, or they can also leave the uneaten portions for another time.
North American Honey Bee, impaled on thorn by a Shrike

About the size of a American Robin at 10 inches long, the Northern Shrike has a pearl grey back and a whitish belly. Their wings and tail are black with white edges and a deep black mask extends from the sharp, hooked beak through the eye to the ear coverts.

Outside of breeding season, groups of birds will gather together and interact through flight displays, chattering and calling to one another. Northern shrikes fly in a heavy, undulating pattern, but when attacking, fly in a straight, determined direction.

They search for food by perching and then dropping from their elevated perch and using their hooked beak to grab the head of their prey. Shrikes then store their finds on stakes, and will usually consume them within nine days.

Related Articles:
- Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk comes for a visit http://bit.ly/w1fDRM
- Can You Scare a Hawk Away? http://bit.ly/w3vz5B
- Small birds attack hawk http://bit.ly/sH68yB
- Frozen Woodpecker http://bit.ly/ubSCTR  
- Is it safe to feed the birds out in the open? http://bit.ly/rBErxI

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