Happy Hallowe’en


WC wishes his readers a Happy Hallowe’en. In keeping with the season, WC offers a slightly spooky critter considerably less scary than Rep. Lamar Smith or Dr. Ben Carson. Let’s talk about the Butcher Bird.

Northern Shrike Adult, Denali Highway

Northern Shrike Adult, Denali Highway

The Northern Shrike, Lanius excubitor, which means “butcher watchman,” an appropriate name for this alert, efficient and somewhat gruesome predator. It’s a songbird gone bad. It has evolved that wicked hooked bill and carnivorous habits. It not only captures small mammals, birds and insects. It typically impales its prey on thorns, sharp branches or the barbs on barbed wire, returning to devour them at its leisure. Is that sufficiently gruesome for Hallowe’en?

The Northern Shrike has a southern cousin, the Loggerhead Shrike.

Loggerhead Shrike, Bear River, Utah

Loggerhead Shrike, Bear River, Utah

The Loggerhead Shrike is, as they say, a bird of similar habits. It is about 25% smaller than a Northern Shrike, has a whiter chest and has a more extensive black mask. The ranges of the two species overlap in Idaho.

All right, they aren’t really that spooky, but it’s the best WC can do for the season.

Advertisements