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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Shrike Out

Loggerhead Shrike, adult

Northern Shrike, imm.

Northern Mockingbird, darkened for shape comparison

Is this going to be the Year Of The Shrike? We just saw an immature Northern Shrike on our Bobolink Farm property, and there have been reports of Northern Shrikes pouring in throughout November from many of the northeast states. Northern Shrikes breed in Alaska and the far northern parts of the continent. They come down in winter, sometimes in larger numbers, to much of the U.S.

I did not have a telephoto lens with me (duh!) when we saw our shrike, but I did have a 28-135 mm lens, so I took the photo anyway, even if it is far away and dark. The interesting thing about my photo is that it's a great example of what the shape of a shrike looks like at a distance. Notice the long tail, large head, very little neck showing, short, broad bill and alert posture. A shrike might be confused with a Northern Mockingbird. So I took one of my photos of a mockingbird and darkened just the bird in Photoshop, to give you a comparison of a silhouette of a mockingbird compared to a shrike. Note the thin, pointy bill of the Mockingbird and smaller, more prominent head.

These are good, shape, search images for you to have when you go out and find your own Northern Shrike this weekend. (Hey, even if it's at a football or soccer game, bring those binos!) One of the best things you can do to improve your birding skills is to focus on the shape of a bird.

The top photo is of an adult Loggerhead Shrike which I took in Florida. Loggerheads look quite similar to Northern Shrikes with subtle differences, such as the mask which goes above the eye on loggerhead. Loggerheads have a more southerly range and live year round in much of the lower half of the country.

All photos © Lillian Stokes, 2006

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