Wild America out the Backdoor
Last spring, I wrote about seeing a Logger Head Shrike on a pasture and CRP property in DeKalb County. It had been a while since I’d seen one and I knew they were in decline. Since I wrote last week’s article, I have seen another one. This setting was pretty unique. I have had lots of birds all winter at my bird feeders because the weather has been so tough. I’ve noticed a Sharp Shinned Hawk around a time or two and have seen a couple of piles of feathers where he had caught a Cardinal. But when I looked out the window a few days ago, I saw something different. On the ground, just below the feeder was Loggerhead Shrike, perched on a White Throated Sparrow that it had just killed. The Sparrow nests in the far north and it only visits our part of the country in the winter. It may have seen polar bears in its lifetime, depending on where it nested.
The Shrike eventually hauled the sparrow into a small patch of Coral Berry, also called “buck brush”, and ate it just like a hawk eats a mouse. In other words, it used its hooked beak to rip hunks off the freshly killed song bird until it was pretty well gone. It was a little like watching something on the old TV Show, Wild America with Marty Stoufer.
The Loggerhead Shrike is a songbird with a raptor’s habits. A bird of grasslands and other open habitats throughout much of North America, this masked black, white, and gray predator hunts from utility poles, fence posts, and other conspicuous perches. Preying on insects, birds, lizards, small mammals, and even on other birds in hard times. Lacking a raptor’s talons, Loggerhead Shrikes skewer their kills on thorns or barbed wire or wedge them into tight places for easy eating. Their numbers have dropped sharply in the last half-century. As much as 76 percent, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey.
I’ve seen several White Throated Sparrows at my feeder, so there will be several that will head north to the breeding grounds. Mr. Shrike will likely still be in the vicinity come warmer weather, looking for grasshoppers. Maybe our paths will cross again.