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Northern Shrike, Butcherbird

Songbird with a nasty habit...

The Northern Shrike breeds in the tundra and taiga of the north, but migrates south into the lower 48 for the winter. It has a pleasing and rhythmical song, which it sings even in winter. But its song belies a rather bloodthirsty feeding habit. The shrike impales its prey on sharp thorns or barbed wire, where it can pull it apart and consume it. To learn more about this songbird-raptor, visit Cornell's AllAboutBirds.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 
BirdNote®
Northern Shrike - "Butcherbird"

Written by Frances Wood

This is BirdNote!
 [Song of Northern Shrike]
 We’re hearing a Northern Shrike, a robin-sized pale gray bird with jet-black mask and wing bars. This quirky and metallic song, which it sings even in winter, belies a rather bloodthirsty feeding habit.
[More song]
The Northern Shrike breeds in the tundra and taiga of the north, but migrates south for the winter. Tame and unsuspicious, it often perches atop a tall tree or shrub, to survey its world. That behavior helps explain one part of the bird’s name, which translates from the Latin as, “butcher watchman.”
But what about the “butcher” aspect? This seemingly mild-mannered songbird hunts insects, mammals, and even other birds, sometimes larger than itself. The shrike then impales the prey on sharp thorns or barbed wire, or wedges it in the forks of trees. The “butcher watchman” can then pull apart and consume its dinner, much as we would pull apart and devour a well-roasted chicken.
To locate a wintering Northern Shrike, look in open country that has few bushes. And listen for the “butcher watchman’s” innocent-sounding song.
 [Repeat song of the Northern Shrike]
Have a look at a shrike, if you dare, by coming to our web site, BirdNote.org.
###
Song of the Northern Shrike recorded by Kevin J. Colver. Used with permission. 
Eastern Washington ambient recorded by C. Peterson
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2011 Tune In to Nature.org   November 2011   Narrator: Frank Corrado

ID#110905NSHRKPLU

 

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