Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Eek! A Shriek!

Some bird nicknames are widespread -- most birders have probably heard the Yellow-rumped warbler called a Butterbutt. (Check the bottom pic here to see why.)

But I think it's fairly common for birding friends to invent their own nicknames too. Most of ours are silly mispronunciations... King Burger (Kingbird), Rose-Chested Goosebeak (Rose-breasted Grosbeak), Buffalohead (Bufflehead), Gerbie (Grebe).

Often the bird's sound, or its description, substitutes for its name: "Hey, I heard a witchety witchety!" (Common Yellowthroat). "Which Nuthatch was it, a yank-yank or a squeaky toy?" (White-breasted or Brown-headed).

Sometimes it's just the intonation. A Frigatebird is still a Frigatebird, but must be mentioned as though it's being yelled at top voice, in memory of a particular enthusiast who did that every time one was sighted.

When you're unsure of exactly which hawk it is way up there, it's probably the (non-existant but handsome sounding) "Broad-shouldered Hawk", originally an accidental mish-mash of the Broad-winged and Red-shouldered Hawks.

Once my sister's husband, a new birder at the time, was trying to call our attention to a bird he couldn't quite remember the name of. And that's how Shriek was born (for Loggerhead Shrike).

All of that to say...

The other day I heard a bird noise I wasn't familiar with. I grabbed the binoculars, and...

Eek! It's a Shriek!

A horrible picture in the bright sun, but a Shriek!

We used to see Shrikes all the time but this is the first one I've seen in years. They seem to be in drastic decline throughout their range. I hope this one will stick around and be a regular visitor to the yard. He's welcome to all the bugs, mice, and voles he can carry.

Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus).

My old birding teacher described them as looking like "Mockingbirds gone bad"!

My sister emailed to remind me that I had forgotten about the Shawshank Hawk! (a.k.a. the Sharp-shinned hawk, for the less cinematically inclined.)


Jenn said...

Aren't they the ones that impale their prey on thorns to come back and eat them later?

Or is that another bird?

Karen said...

Been enjoying your blog. Greetings from British Columbia!

Unknown said...

"mockings gone bad" -- I love that image!

Rose Connors said...

On the contrary, I think they are much handsomer than mockingbirds, although Jenn correctly noted their seeming barbarous behavior. Loggerhead Shrikes were relatively common in south Florida, where I lived 2 years ago.

Karmyn R said...

Being fairly new to birding - I haven't seen a Shrike (do we have them in Oregon?) BUT - those cute little yellow-rumped warblers stop by in March to eat my suet. Now I know what to call them - Butter Butts is much easier to say!!!

R.Powers said...

Butcher bird!

..."birding teacher"?

amarkonmywall said...

I like him! As pedestrian as it sounds, I was thrilled to have agoldfinch show up in the courtyard today- since I moved to this big city I haven't seen anything but sparrows and pigeons! But this little guy landed on the thistle feeder so I have hope. Speaking of the naming of birds, check out this one, new today!

Rurality said...

Jenn, yep that's them! There are some locust trees with scary thorns nearby... but I haven't noticed anything impaled.

Thanks K&M!

Eva, he also said that blue-gray gnatcatchers were mockers that were made of wool and washed in hot water!

RC, I love the bandit mask. :)

Karmyn, they are in some parts of Oregon. If you check the link you can click on the range map to see if they're in your area.

FC, yes I took a few "special studies" courses at UAB. I used to take those all the time back when we lived closer. I think they have discontinued the program now due to budget cuts.

Vicki, I'm glad you have more than regular city birds! I will check the link.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the giggles!

Though they're a bit of a trek away, here you can check out the Boobies: http://www.galapagosonline.com/Galapagos_Natural_History/Birds_and_Animals/Birds/Boobies.html


Anonymous said...

Oops! The link was a bit long. Trying again:


Dave said...

story midwife - For long URLs like that, you can go to http://www.tinyurl.com and get a very short link to substitute for it. (Handy for sending links by email, too.)

Rurality - We used to have a good ol' boy neighbor in the valley who called in his feeder birds for the Christmas Bird Count. I've been calling chickadees, chickadoodles and junkos, junketters ever since.

meresy_g said...

I have never seen a Shriek. I was always fascinated by their impaling behavior though. I'm not even sure they occur in PA. Will keep my eye out. Any day now we will be flooded with Juncos....the sure sign that winter is nigh.

Little Blue Petal said...

Wow what an amazing bird! Haven't seen one of those here! (Eeek re impaling behaviour!)
I live on the English/Welsh border. In and around our garden we have rooks, crows, sparrows, tiny robins, blue tits, coal tits, green finches, gold finches, blackbirds, small owls, barn owls, collared doves, lapwings, buzzards, kestrels and oyster catchers. It was such a delight to discover the oyster catchers this summer! They are so beautiful to watch! Hope they will return next year.

Dana said...

I love your blog...so informative! Speaking of nicknames for things, why do southerners call the flower Phlox "thrift"? My momma and Nanny call it that all the time, but most notherners just call it phlox.

Rurality said...

SM, thanks I will check it out! I always love watching the boobies on tv - they are hilarious.

Dave, for juncos I always want to start singing "Wino Junko"... by the very appropriate birding band Wings.

Meredith I think you'd have the Northern Shrike instead, but they are very similar.

LBP it just kills me that all my overseas travel was done before I became interested in birds! Oh what I must have missed... I love the oystercatchers too. I'm sure yours are different than ours but it's amazing how similar species can be found in such distant places.

Thanks Dana, I really don't know why it's called that. It's just a particular type of phlox though, not all phlox. I had a laughing fit once when a friend of mine was trying to think of the name and called it "budget" instead!

Anonymous said...

We have a flower out here, Armeria maritima, that's native and also turns up in nursery sixpacks a lot; that gets called "thrift" or "sea thrift." Little clump of grassy leaves with a longer stem and maybe one-onch poof of pink flower on top.

I like shrikes, and it scares me that they're in so much trouble. I've never found out why, either -- they don't mind hanging out with humans, and they don't eat only one thing. We get a Northern shrike or two here every winter, and once I saw a brown shrike (which is to say a Brown Shrike, a Eurasian bird). The easiest way to spot a shrike is to watch it fly; it has a sort of undulating path, whirrr/glide, whirr/glide, reminds me of a butterfly for some reason.

Hey, they only impale because they have weak feet. (Not talons like a hawk's.) And they sing! Sort of. It's disorganized and halfhearted-sounding, but it's a song.

Lené Gary said...

I love this post. It made me laugh. Thanks.

Kati said...

great post! brings back memories of a great childhood friend who loved "improving" upon names for all sorts of things! my mind tends to work like the person who called the flower "budget". I identify with that person completely: that's why I always did very well on multiple choice tests vs short answer ones.

Anonymous said...

Lots of fun, thanks a lot! :-)

Anonymous said...

When my daughters were quite small they would always announce that the "opinion jays" were on the deck in the feeder. They were, of course, pinyon jays, but given the amount of chatter from them we thought the malapropism was ideal.
Caroline in the Black Hills of SD