My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Northern Shrike, Lanius excubitor

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.


Northern Shrike, Lanius excubitor

The northern shrike (Lanius borealis) is a large songbird species in the shrike family (Laniidae) native to North America and Siberia.

In North America, this and the related loggerhead shrike are commonly known as butcherbirds for their habit of impaling prey on thorns or spikes. A folk name from Michigan is winter butcherbird.

The northern shrike can be distinguished from the loggerhead shrike by its larger size, lighter grey plumage and shorter black face mask that doesn’t cover the eyes completely. It also has a longer bill with more prominent hook. Their calls are similar.

Northern shrikes often sit on tall poles and branches surveying for food. They prey on arthropods such as spiders, beetles, bugs, and grasshoppers, and small vertebrates. Prey identified include passerine birds such as horned lark, black-capped chickadee, common starling, brewer’s sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, dark-eyed junco, pine siskin, house sparrow, small mammals such as the vagrant shrew, western harvest mouse, deer mouse, long-tailed vole, meadow vole and house mouse, and reptiles such as spiny lizards. They have been observed hunting finches and house sparrows at bird feeders.

Northern shrike breed 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.

Their nests are large, bulky cup of twigs and roots, woven through with feathers and hair. Compact inner lining made of grasses, small feathers, and hair. Placed in trees and shrubs.



On to my photos:

These photos were shot over the course of the past few winters, as winter is the only time of year this species is found in my part of Michigan.


Northern Shrike, Lanius excubitor


Northern Shrike, Lanius excubitor


Northern Shrike, Lanius excubitor


Northern Shrike, Lanius excubitor


Northern Shrike, Lanius excubitor


Northern Shrike, Lanius excubitor


This is number 214 in my photo life list, only 136 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!



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