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Northern Shrike

Lanius excubitor


I believe the Latin translates "Watchman Butcher". A PREDATORY songbird, the Northern Shrike breeds in taiga and tundra and winters in southern Canada and the northern United States. It feeds on small birds, mammals, and insects, sometimes impaling them on spines or barbed wire fences. Adult Description Medium-sized songbird. Gray back. Whitish throat and chest. Black mask. Large head. Medium-long tail. Stout bill with hook at end. Wings black with white patch. Tail black with white outer feathers. Immature Description Similar to adult, but more brownish, with more distinct barring on chest, and less distinct mask.


Habitat Open Woodland Breeds in taiga and at the border of taiga and tundra, in open country with medium or tall trees or shrubs. Winters in open country with tall perches, including shrubby fields, wetlands, and forest edges. Food: Insects, small mammals, BIRDS, and rarely, reptiles.


Cool Facts The Northern Shrike, like other shrikes, kills more prey, if it can, than it can immediately eat or feed to nestlings. Such behavior was characterized by early observers as "wanton killing," but the Northern Shrike stores excess prey to eat later. Storing food is an adaptation for surviving periods of food scarcity. The Latin species name of the Northern Shrike, Lanius excubitor, means "Butcher watchman." The nest of the Northern Shrike is an open cup, but it is so deep that while incubating, the female is completely out of view except for the tip of her tail. Both male and female Northern Shrikes sing throughout year. The male sings especially in late winter and early spring.

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1 Comment

GregMasteller 7 years ago

Northern Shrike are rare for Ohio.

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Ohio, USA

Spotted on Nov 29, 2013
Submitted on Nov 30, 2013

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