[Tweeters] undesirable get et by shrike

Gary Bletsch garybletsch at yahoo.com
Tue Nov 27 12:58:10 PST 2007

Dear Tweeters,

I was going to post this today anyway, but Ms.
Messick's interesting post gives me a perfect lead.
Today at my feeder near Lyman (Skagit County), I
watched a Northern Shrike eating a Starling! I don't
get too many starlings at my feeder, but starlings do
roost in a holly tree next to the feeding stations.
The starlings also eat fallen fruit from a nearby
pear-apple tree, especially in late fall.

At dawn today, I noticed a lot of sparrows and finches
at the feeder, but a few minutes later, there were no
birds feeding. The only action was from six
Black-capped Chickadees that were flying around one
feeder and calling a lot, even for chickadees. A House
Finch kept watch from the top of the feeder tree, and
a goldfinch was calling from somewhere inside the
tree, which is a fir. Something was up....

Then, at about quarter to eight, I noticed the shrike
tugging something along the needle-strewn ground below
the fir-tree. The object in question was a
stiff-looking, wet, dirty-looking starling. I could
not tell if the shrike had just killed it, and then
dragged it across the wet ground, or if it might have
been carrion when the shrike noticed it. I doubt
somehow that shrikes eat carrion, but maybe they do,
especially in such a cold, miserable spate of weather
as we have had for the past two days.

There is a barbed-wire fence nearby, but I was going
to be late for work before the shrike got the starling
there, at the rate he was hauling his victim. The
starling was probably near the heavy extreme of a
shrike's prey selection.

This was the third shrike sighting I have had here in
my neighborhood in as many weeks. On Sunday, I watched
a Northern Shrike chase a small passerine, probably a
junco, over 150 yards. The chase was made across a wet
corn-stubble field. The shrike missed the songbird,
although he made lots of exciting aerial manoeuvers
trying to dive down onto it. Eventually the shrike
gave up and took up a perch on a barbed-wire

Well, I keep on feeding the birds. I have tons of
House Sparrows now, more than ever--over 20 at times.
My barn is a veritable House Sparrow nursery. The
starlings continue to nest in various tree crannies in
my yard, and again, although they don't eat much
birdseed here, they do roost here in considerable
numbers in that holly tree.

I am hosting pest species--guilty! However, my feeder
has also hosted shrikes, a Pine Grosbeak, a Scrub Jay,
White-throated Sparrows, Pileated Woodpeckers, and so
forth. The invasive species are part of the price I
pay. Actually, the species that most annoys me at
times is the Red-winged Blackbird. They're the ones
who gobble up more sunflower than the rest combined,
at least sometimes. But that's the price. To me it's
worth it.

Yours truly,

Gary Bletsch

Yours truly,

Gary Bletsch

near Lyman (Skagit County), Washington

garybletsch at yahoo.com

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