Pallas’s leaf warbler near Brotton. With the dashing good looks of a dandy highwayman and the mentality of Vlad the Impaler, the great grey shrike sports a black, bandit-style eye mask reminiscent of medieval executioners so as not to be recognised for committing one of the most dastardly deeds in Nature – the impaling of its prey on thorns to make a grizzly cache. Let us send you the latest in bird and conservation news. Simon Lester takes a look at the great grey shrike, a delicate-looking songbird whose innocent appearance belies its sadistic tendencies – for this is a bird gruesomely adept at skewering its prey on thorns. Hover over the points on the photos below to reveal some of the key differences. Legal Notices Privacy Policy Contact Us. One those birds I used to dream of seeing as I flicked through books as a child, great grey shrikes never disappoint.Several times it gave chase to smaller birds, probably goldcrests, it was just too distant to tell. As I sketched a hundred or so pink-footed geese flew over and curlew calls rang out from the nearby coast. Looking through my binoculars in the direction pointed out by a battery of scopes, I enjoyed my first glimpse of ‘the butcher bird’. Please login or subscribe to view this information. Species that shrikes might be confused with include Northern Mockingbirds, Clark’s Nutcrackers, and Townsend’s Solitaires. Are the Trump Administration's Environmental Rollbacks Built to Last? Lincolnshire 11:57 . Apex Predator. Indeed, in more than 40 years as a gamekeeper, I’ve only ever seen one. View Sighting. If you live in the northern United States, you can see the Loggerhead Shrike in summer and the Northern Shrike in winter (they breed up in the taiga and tundra). The Red-backed Shrike was once a common bird across southern Britain, but has disappeared with the intensification of agricultural practices, though it is still seen on passage. Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. ALL IMAGES ON THIS WEBSITE ARE COPYRIGHT JONATHAN POMROY 2020, November 26th- lockdown contrasts and great spotted woodpecker, November 18th- redwing, hawfinches and hornbeams, 16th November- oak study in watercolour at Yorkshire Arboretum. 14K 2,502. In flight, the white "hankerchief" on the wing is more prominent than on the juvenile Northern. Indeed, shrike is thought to be a derivative of shriek, hence the bird’s name. Overwhelmed and Understaffed, Our National Wildlife Refuges Need Help. We first found the shrike atop a distant shrub alert and scanning for prey. It was a “wow” moment! We think it’s now pretty clear who killed Cock Robin…. Inevitably at this time of year, especially with a run of easterly winds it gives me the chance to catch up with unusual or new birds. Change ), You are commenting using your Twitter account. Photos: Deborah Bifulco/Great Backyard Bird Count, “The views expressed in user comments do not reflect the views of Audubon. Breeding in North America, Eurasia: n; can be seen in 107 countries. If you see a passerine hovering and hunting in a clearing, there’s no doubt: You’re about to see a butcherbird get down to business. Latest Sightings of Great Grey Shrike The latest sighting details and map for Great Grey Shrike are only available to our BirdGuides Ultimate or our BirdGuides Pro subscribers. ( Log Out /  Visit your local Audubon center, join a chapter, or help save birds with your state program. In fact, it’s a songbird, albeit with a powerful hooked bill and violent, carnivorous tendencies. Yet their hooked beaks, beefy heads, and distinct behavior set them apart from other birds. Our email newsletter shares the latest programs and initiatives. I have had a couple of days on the coast this week. Your support helps secure a future for birds at risk. Don't let their adorable masked faces fool you. They’ve earned the name “butcher birds” for the way they impale their prey on thorns or barbed wire. (Any blood is also a good clue.) When my children were growing up, my youngest daughter was traumatised when the family of field mice in the jolly, televised cartoon version of Farthing Wood were skewered onto a thornbush by a red-backed shrike. 12:03 20/10 Great Grey Shrike. This bird had undoubtedly just made landfall after crossing the sea. However, because it’s a passerine, the shrike’s feet are too weak to hold the morsel while it’s being ripped apart, so it finds a secure anchorage, such as a blackthorn or a handy barbed-wire fence, to assist with the dismembering process. Change ), You are commenting using your Google account. Change ), You are commenting using your Facebook account. Cunningly, these masked assassins sometimes sing another bird’s song to lure unsuspecting victims into a deceitful ambush. In the extreme southern states, you only get the Loggerhead year round. The first known illustration of a great grey shrike appears in the Sherborne Missal, an illuminated medieval manuscript from the 1400s. In Scotland, however, the bird enjoys the more jovial sobriquet of White Whisky John, due to its slightly erratic, tipsy flight, which reveals its white underparts. Here in North America we have exactly two species of butcherbirds: the medium-sized Northern Shrike (also know as the Great Grey Shrike) and the somewhat smaller Loggerhead Shrike. This species has always been a favourite of mine. Raptors’ supersonic vision, effortless aerial acrobatics and ruthless hunting instinct make them the undisputed masters of the skies, but can, David Profumo takes a look at the lovely little dormouse – a delightful little creature which spends 75 per cent. I was fortunate to have prolonged views of this scarce Eastern vagrant for around twenty minutes as it fed along a well trimmed hawthorn hedge.I was cashing in on someone else’s find to enjoy this beautiful bird. The young birds are also more brown than gray. The secret to identifying adult shrikes is all in the face. One day, when I was working on Langholm Moor in Dumfriesshire, some birdwatchers gathered in a layby on the hill road revealed with great excitement that a great grey shrike had arrived. The bold plumage always seems so crisp and clean. ( Log Out /  Many thanks to Simon Gurr for his invaluable help setting up this blog. Other notes: In immature Northern Shrikes, the mask is practically a smudge and barely visible. Their targets can include anything from cardinals and lizards to grasshoppers and mice. Furthermore, although both species are declining in range and numbers, the red-backed shrike – which used to breed here and now visits just as the great grey is leaving – is virtually extinct as a UK breeding bird. On reflection, it’s strange how the attractive and dexterous great grey shrike has evolved into a figure of horror because it spears its prey to help it to eat, when the song thrush – another bird that sits in solitude at the top of a tree and sings its heart out, but batters snails to bits on a rock – gets away with blue murder. A striking bird, just 9½in in length, with a stocky body and a long tail, Lanius excubitor is a rare winter visitor and the largest of the European family of shrikes, with no more than 200 gracing our shores each year. Other notes: The immature version of this bird is much grayer, and has dark barring across its chest. Over the years, there’s been confusion as to which family this sinister bird belongs to and whether it’s a corvid or a bird of prey. When it comes to songbirds, shrikes are a bloodthirsty bunch. They move so fast, the mind takes snap shots, which I can hold to sketch. It was a very attractive sand coloured lark, very good at hiding between rocks.

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