Shrieks and Shrikes

Shrieks and Shrikes

Shrikes are small but awe-inspiring birds of prey. Two species of shrike reside in the U.S., the Northern Shrike and the Loggerhead Shrike. The Northern Shrike summers in Northern Canada and Alaska and winters in the northern half of the states, while the Loggerhead Shrike lives year-round in the southern states and moves northward in the breeding season (I have photos of a Loggerhead near Chicago).

The Loggerhead Shrike pictured above displays the thicker black mask when compared to the Northern Shrike, one that generally rises over the eye and extends over the bill to form a single, connected mask. They really remind me of the Lone Ranger.

Their taste for birds, lizards and small mammals such as mice is complicated by the fact that they have the feet of perching birds (passerines) rather than talons of other birds of prey. To compensate, shrikes have evolved a method of killing their prey by biting their neck to induce paralysis and then shaking them to break their neck and impaling them on thorns, twigs or even barbed-wire! Yes, they can break the necks of mice by rolling their heads at high speeds. They will also leave prey impaled on these as a larder for future meals. They are affectionately known as “butcherbirds”.

In December of 2017 I was at Lakes Park in Fort Myers, Florida, and I saw a couple Loggerhead Shrikes. It all started out innocently enough as I started taking photos of one of them, but the situation quickly went south. Here’s a rough running commentary of my thoughts during that photo shoot!

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