Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Shrike in the Hand

Posted by Kirk
Probably the most exciting bird caught in the nets during this fall's banding season was this beautiful Northern Shrike. The banding process begins by stringing up special nets around the nature center and then waiting for birds to fly into them. Net runners monitor the nets and run any birds they catch back to the bird banders. Paul was the lead bander this particular day. No one is really excited about sticking their hand into a bag with an agitated shrike though everyone was happy to watch someone else do it. You can see why by looking at the beak.

There isn't really all that much difference between a shrike beak and a raptor beak. Shrikes are efficient predators and have an incredibly shark beak. Banding one is fairly intimidating. We've been banding birds at the nature center for over 40 years now and this is only the second shrike ever caught in the nets. It apparently was attacking another bird caught in the net. Shrike's feet are not strong like a raptor's feet so they kill food by impaling it on thorns. They come back and eat it later after it has died. In the following two photos, Paul is looking at the wings to learn more about the bird before banding it.

The band itself is a simple aluminum ring that is formed into a loose circle around the bird's foot with a special pliers.

Here the bird is just before releasing. There are a number of ways for a bander to hold birds. They do so in ways that will keep the birds safe. The bird's safety is the number one priority.

Once the bird is banded and all information is recorded it is set free. Hopefully, someone will capture this bird again and send the data in to the federal bird banding office so we can learn more about the life of Northern Shrikes.


Photo credit: all photos by Kimberly Woodward