Northern (Great Grey) Shrike in southwest Missouri

2008 November 29
by David J. Ringer

GREENE CO., MO — This morning Lisa Berger, Charley Burwick, and I wandered around the Osage Plains west-northwest of Springfield, Missouri. We found gobs of red-tails, kestrels, and harriers, but no Merlins or Prairie Falcons. We did pretty well with sparrows: Harris’s are always special, I don’t get to see American Tree Sparrows in north-central Texas, and we heard a Fox Sparrow singing.

But the day’s big excitement was a certain shrike.


From a distance, the shrike’s mantle appeared rather pale (“frosty,” Lisa said). Its mask seemed narrow, and the bill seemed long. All these features suggested Northern Shrike, but the distance was a little too much to be certain. Northern Shrikes are rare in this part of the state, and we didn’t want to make a sloppy call.


Happily, we didn’t have to wonder forever. As we sat quietly beside the road, the shrike worked toward us, eventually offering fantastic scoped views. Fine dark edges on the bird’s pale breast feathers produce a scalloped or vermiculated look at close range. Note too that only the lower half of the bird’s eye is within its blackish mask. And, the area immediately over the bill is whitish, not dark. Photo digiscoped by Charley Burwick.


Here you can see the bird’s huge, very strongly hooked bill, which is pale at the base. You can also see a pale whitish mark in the bird’s dark lores. The bird shows a square head and a distinct neck. (See more on Loggerhead and Northern Shrike ID.) This photo is also by Charley Burwick.

Related posts:

  1. Loons, owls, and hawks in Missouri
  2. Gorgeous dark morph Harlan’s Hawk in Missouri
  3. Breeding raptors in Missouri
  4. A shrike and a skulker
  5. Shrike-thrush
8 Responses
  1. November 30, 2008

    Two years in a row! These things are getting downright common in SW Mo.

  2. david permalink*
    December 1, 2008

    Hehe, not exactly. Maybe people are getting better at looking for them though. According to Missouri Bird Records Committee Secretary Bill Rowe, this is one of the southernmost records in the state (your dad’s last year being another, obviously).

    I saw this bird catch some sort of insect and impale it on barbed wire. Then it flew back to its hunting perch, leading me to speculate that the bird plans to hang out in that spot for a bit. I haven’t heard whether anyone else went to look for it.

  3. December 6, 2008

    I lured Charley out there yesterday, and we nailed it! Much more cooperative bird that we had last year. And to top it off, I got my first Missouri Prairie Falcon just minutes later! What a day of birding!

  4. david permalink*
    December 8, 2008

    Really cool that it’s sticking around! Glad you got to see it. And a PF at last — score.

  5. December 12, 2008

    Wow, beautiful pictures! You may have discovered I sort of have a thing for Shrikes! LOL

    Thanks for the link to: Ontario Field Ornithologists …the article was very interesting.

  6. December 13, 2008

    Northern Shrike is still a target life bird for me. Thanks for the field ID notes. Excellent!

  7. January 6, 2009

    Hi David, Love the website and a nice find! You may be interested to check a Northern Shrike from my last visit to CO at:
    (scroll most of the way down). BR Mike

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