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Alex Douglas-Kane shares her experiences and understanding of Discover Nature Awareness

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Shrike catches chickadee at Nisqually

Today at Nisqually, I was lucky enough to see a NORTHERN SHRIKE, almost certainly the same juvenile reported yesterday by the Kelley Gang, catch and eat a BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE. This is the first time I have seen a shrike hunting. It all happened close to the end of the gravel road leading to the new boardwalk.

A bit earlier, I had seen the shrike perched in a thicket near the end of the boardwalk, but now it was coming from the opposite direction, chasing the chickadee over the marsh grass. The chickadee led the shrike into a thicket of small trees, where there was an agile, high-speed chase in and out among the stems and branches, but it couldn't shake off the shrike.

The shrike somehow managed to drive the chickadee down into the grass and I lost sight of them. In a few moments the shrike reappeared with the limp chickadee in its bill, and carried it to another tree across the road. It impaled the dead chickadee on a short twig, and began to tear it apart and eat it, re-impaling it when
ever it became dislodged. I was pretty impressed by how easily the shrike tore up the chickadee with that big, hooked bill.

After eating part of the chickadee, the shrike wiped its bill, preened, and perched for awhile, until it spit out something black. I don't think enough time had passed for an actual pellet to form (?), but after spitting out whatever it was, the shrike immediately resumed eating, plucking out bunches of the chickadee's feathers, including all of the wings and tail. After more preening and perching, the shrike flew off, leaving a small lump of chickadee, which I expect it came back to eat later. What an amazing thing to see!

Photo: Northern Shrike - Tom-Munson
Rachel Lawson

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