Not What Meets the Eye

Like a wisp of gray fog, the Northern Shrike snagged itself onto a tree in the middle of Hunn Meadow East, silvery feathers ruffled slightly by the breeze. It surveyed the mowed grass, glancing up from time to time at the goldfinches that swirled in alarm over its head. I could hear it trilling to itself, like an opera star getting ready to perform.

Shrikes are robin-sized songbirds that nest in the empty lands of the Far North. They come to the Fill singly and rarely in spring and fall, but seldom stay for long. We don’t give them enough habitat to live on, I guess, and so after a few days, they move elsewhere.

Most songbirds chirp their way through life, feasting innocuously on seeds or insects. Not so shrikes. Shrikes are the opposite of innocuous. They prey on other birds and small animals, catching them on the fly and sticking them onto convenient twigs or brambles for future consumption. For this reason, shrikes are commonly called butcher birds. The equivalent of cows with fangs.

Beautiful but deadly — like nature itself.