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Recent Predators

April 6, 2012

Happy April Festivities, dear Birders! I’m taking a break from apple peeling for my Apple Matzoh Kugel, because I realized I hadn’t yet recounted my latest encounter with birdful predators! Before I started birding somewhat-regularly, I always thought of birds as cute, gentle creatures, harbingers of love and all things sweet. But let me tell you — the real Bird World is nothing like that!

Last week we headed out to Kipling Spit in search of waterfowl (obviously) and Snowy owls (less obviously), saw lots of the former and none of the latter (as is expected this time of year), and on our way back to the car, I spotted a grey bird sitting on a branch staring at me. The bird was intrepid, its bill slightly hooked, and I swore it looked right through me. I asked my fearless leader to ID the bird and he immediately said Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottus)

But since I’ve been staring at this particular Mockingbird by Roger Tory Peterson for the entire month of March (for those of you who are new readers, I opted for a Peterson calendar instead of a Sibley this year; who knows what sort of adventures next year will bring), I knew the bird in question was no mockingbird. I couldn’t prove it, mind you, but I justknew. The bird had less of a tail on it and it was smaller.

You know what, dearest Avian enthusiasts? I was right! This was no mockingbird — it was actually a NORTHERN SHRIKE (Lanius excubitor)!

I think the Northern Shrike is the only predatory songbird! Legend has it that he likes to impale his victims on thorns, and from the nervous tremor on the robins nearby, I take it his victims are numerous. I like the sinister black line the extends past his eyes — like he’s wearing those sleek Ray Ban shades — but I wouldn’t want to get on his bad side.

We left Kipling spit thrilled with our sighting and headed for some other park in the pouring rain to look for owl nests. Once we got there and it started raining even harder, my interest in owls was rapidly waning, while my interest in coffee was growing exponentially. So it goes. Instead of owls, we came across a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) sitting atop a branch, eagerly awaiting the slightest bird movement that would warrant a fatal pounce (and, for the Hawk, delicious lunch). We didn’t see him swoop down and devour anything (nor did we see any baby owls around, ahem…), but he looked fierce.

(Our fearless leader claimed to see that blood-thirsty red eye. Thankfully, I was spared the sight.) And after the hawk, it was time for coffee and we headed over to Birds and Beans, where I had my usual strange but compelling breakfast cookie, and the day felt wonderful in spite of the hideous weather, grey sky and abundance of birdful violence that was no doubt taking place just around the corner. But so it goes in the Avian Kingdom.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 8, 2012 12:02 pm

    Sounds like good birding! And ‘Recent Predators’ would be just about the best title for a poetry collection I’ve ever heard.
    Your accipiter photo is of a Sharp-shinned Hawk. Note the relatively short tail, high crown with a pronounced ‘stop’ to the forehead, and thin tarsi.

  2. May 8, 2012 1:42 am

    An awesome day! Thanks for taking me along. If I ever get my hands on a half decent set of binoculars I could see a new addiction developing.

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