This was the Northern Shrike that I saw last August while in Deline, Northwest Territories. To see a good photo of a Northern Shrike click here.
I thought the three-shrike weekend I reported last month was pretty special.
And it was.
But it turns out it wasn’t unique to my little section of central Maine. A quick perusal of birding listserves around the country yielded these interesting comments.
An Ontario observer wrote, “Since Sunday, I have seen Northern Shrikes at 7 locations along an almost 80-km stretch of Hwy 417 between the east end of Ottawa and the Vankleek Hill exit” Based on their locations, I suspect them all to be different individuals. Over the past five years I’ve driven this route many dozens of times, but
have never before seen more than one shrike before”
Another observer in eastern Maine wrote, “It seems to be a good winter for finding Northern Shrikes. I have encountered five this week which is more than I get to see some entire winters.”
A northern New York birder wrote, “I finally observed my first shrike of 2006 over my lunch hour. The shrike posed high in its tree permitting me to get out the scope and get a good long look. Late this afternoon I saw my second shrike”
From a Minnesota listserve came this note, “We made a quick trip up to Sherburne NWR yesterday afternoon. There were two Northern Shrikes and a Ruffed Grouse on the access road”
There are lots of Northern Shrikes out there this year, especially in southern Canada and the northern tier of U.S. states. There have been reports as far south as California, Delaware, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, and Texas according to observations submitted to eBird and reports I gleaned this week from birding listserves. Below is a map originally produced in eBird that shows Northern Shrike reports (in green) from December and January. I have added (in orange) some of my own sightings and those from birding listserves as well as a general approximation of the breeding range in yellow.
The largest recorded North American invasion of Northern Shrikes occurred in the winter of 1995-96 when there were 69 Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) that each tallied ten or more shrikes and a jaw-dropping 54 birds counted on Washington Stateï¿½s Padilla Bay CBC. There were said to be more than 300 reports that winter from New England alone.
Like many of the bird species whose breeding range is confined to the Boreal region, we really donï¿½t know much about what drives these major influxes of birds further south in some years than others. In fact, North American populations of Northern Shrikes have received only limited research attention.