Wild(er)Life

We have only been living in the mountains of western North Carolina for a few months but  we've already been pretty entertained by a few of our neighbors.

I took this picture from one of our bedroom windows because I didn't want to scare away these wild turkeys. I discovered once I went to get into the car to run an errand that I could have walked up behind them and taken a picture from two feet away. They were, as you might say, totally oblivious, looking down hill from where I was as if to say "do you hear something?" They only alighted (flying isn't their forte) to the trees when I started the car.

During the milder days of early December, I caught these bluebirds catching some sun on our deck. Time to build another bluebird house!

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Yesterday, while doing my run/walk/hike up our mountain, I saw these girls. They are skittish here, not so much on my runs in NJ when our herd would stand within five feet of me as I headed past them.

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A bird, the likes of which I have never seen,  was perched on one of our trees. I took a picture, but this photo that I found online is far superior to mine.

 Photo by Ken Schneider

Photo by Ken Schneider

I think it is a Loggerhead Shrike. Here is a description of its feeding habits in an article by George Ellison:

If on a late afternoon walk across an open field you encounter a thorny honey locust tree with an impaled display of songbirds or field mice dangling in the wind — like macabre ornaments on some ghastly Christmas tree — you’ll know you’ve entered the “butcher shop” of a loggerhead shrike.

 

To say that the loggerhead shrike is “fearsome” is not an overstatement. With an especially adapted beak that is hooked and notched, the shrike kills birds and mammals by biting them behind the head until the cervical vertebrae are severed.

 

The male shrike has the distinctive habit of impaling captured insects, birds, mice and other prey upon handy strands of barbed wire or plant thorns and briars. Leftover portions are sometimes left hanging high and dry for later consumption.

 

In a “Birder’s World” article, “Masters of the Macabre,” Matthew Douglas noted that, “Male shrikes accumulate larders for their own use and for feeding their mates and young. Larders usually reach peak size during courtship and incubation so maximal food is available when the young hatch.

 

“While shrikes have a reputation for wanton killing, most evidence suggests they don’t kill more than is required for sustenance. It’s not clear whether most shrikes feed on cached food that is old. While some have returned to larders weeks after they formed them, others seem to avoid ones more than two days old.

 

“Another function of larders may be as indicators of a male’s hunting ability. Evidence suggests a male with more food stored in larders has a greater chance of being selected by a female.

 

“Whatever the purpose of the larder, it appears that the impaling behavior offers the shrike an anchor from which it can tear apart the prey’s body. This would be a reasonable assumption because although shrikes have powerful feet, they do not have the talons of other birds of prey.”

Will keep you posted as to what's around the next bend!