Northern Shrike Nest in Western Alaska
by Bryce W. Robinson
I’ve been on the ground in Alaska with my friend Neil for a week now, and the hunt for Gyrfalcon nests has been all consuming. We haven’t had much luck on the Gyrfalcon front, most nest sites are occupied by Rough-legged Hawk, Golden Eagle, and Common Raven.
Although we’ve had little success with finding Gyrfalcon nests, we have found many other natural treasures. We’ve already seen our fill of Grizzly Bears, and even caught a brief but close look at a Gray Wolf. It seems that every day in the Alaska bush turns up a number of great experiences. One that tops the list for this past week was when I found a Northern Shrike nest in a small tree along a creekside.
The mother held tight in the nest until we were within twenty feet. She then fled, and as we were checking the nest and counting eggs, she came back to her nest. Her responsible behavior and fidelity to her clutch provided me with some great opportunities to photograph her. I appreciate the tenacity of these small passerines. They are truly a vicious song bird. You can see she has some blood on her beak.
I’ve spent some time at Loggerhead Shrike nests in the desert southwest while doing nesting bird surveys, but I’ve never seen a Northern Shrike nest until now. I’ll tell you, the nests of excubitor are not at all unlike ludovicianus. This nest, like the Loggerhead, was in the middle of the small tree, cones shaped and made of many twigs. The cup was rather deep, and lined with many feathers to insulate eggs and young from the severe weather of the Alaskan tundra. This was a great moment in my first hand education in ornithology, so I had to share.