When you first see a Northern Shrike perched on a branch, you may think it is a cute, medium-sized song bird. If so, take a closer look. It is in fact a small, fierce hunter cloaked in grey, black and white plumage.
Shrikes hunt voles, such as those found in Grassland Set-asides, and also large insects and small songbirds. Shrikes hunt from perches, descending upon prey and then use their strongly hooked bill to sever the spinal cord between the neck and head.
Shrikes are known to keep a cache of food, impaling birds, voles, and insects on branches, barbed wire or thorns. This unique way of storing food is why Northern Shrikes used to be known as “butcher birds”.
Photo by Minette Layne
They feed on their grisly cache during times of food shortages, and males use their cache to demonstrate their fitness to interested females and other adventurous males.
In Delta they make use of Hedgerows as perch sites and can use hawthorns as “butcher shops” where they display the spoils of their hunting endeavours. Northern Shrikes breed in the Arctic and are only found in Delta during the winter.