November 2nd – Yikes! Shrikes!!

Now you may think that the intrepid hunter, the Northern Shrike, gets the nickname “butcherbird” from its habit of impaling its victims on thorns for later consumption. But you would be wrong. The name comes from its uncanny ability to brutalize the hands of banders who have to disentangle it from a mist net. The bird, which is about the length of a Blue Jay, has a massive head and neck and shoulder musculature. But it’s the bill which makes it so dangerous. A close inspection reveals a vicious hook and a little protuberance that, together with the hook, creates a weapon very much like a can opener. It is a killing machine. Today we got not one but two of them, both young birds. Nancy took out the first one. It had decapitated a Myrtle Warbler and drew blood from Nancy as it tried to take several fingers. Loretta took out the second one – but knew enough to keep her fingers out of the bird’s way.

It was actually kind of an interesting morning. When we first arrived under starry skies, the temperature was -4 and there was a heavy frost on the ground and on the nets and poles. It took us awhile to get things opened. And then there were few birds interested in going into them. It wasn’t until later in the morning and the sun had had time to warm things up (a little) that we began to see some action around the feeders/nets. Most of it consisted of goldfinches. The result was that the first group of school kids didn’t get to see very many birds while the second group had a surplus. As well as the shrikes, we banded our first Pine Siskins of the season. Down here (in what to them is the sunny south) they hang out with goldfinches both at the feeders and in the nets…..

Banded 46:

2 Northern Shrikes
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Northern Cardinal
1 American Tree Sparrow
1 Fox Sparrow
5 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 Purple Finch
3 Pine Siskins
31 American Goldfinches

Retrapped 40:
9 Black-capped Chickadees
3 White-breasted Nuthatches
2 Northern Cardinals
2 White-throated Sparrows
17 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 House Finch
6 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 39 spp.


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