Brown/Red-backed Shrike

There is an update (10/04/15) on this shrike in another post on this blog. It's titled, Butterflies, Birds and That Darn Shike. I must warn you that you will have to scroll down to the end of the post to get the update.

I'm republishing this post with more updated information and a new way of thinking about a bird's carbon footprint.

Congratulations go out to friend and blog follower Alison Cebula for finding Mendocino County's first and California's fifth record of a Brown Shrike or was it the first record in North America of a Red-backed Shrike or some hybrid? The birding community is in a frenzy trying to decide. I forget what Alison's exact title with California State Park is but I know she runs the Snowy Plover program for them here in Mendocino. While doing a March 5th, Snowy Plover survey on Manchester State Park at Alder Creek she noticed and digiscoped a recognizable image of the shrike. I've never been able to do that with any bird.

Ok! That's not a recognizable image. Here it is cropped and sharpened.

The Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus) is a bird in the shrike family that is found mainly in Asia. It is closely related to the red-backed shrike (L. collurio) and isabelline shrike (L. isabellinus).

The Red-backed Shrike breeds in most of Europe and western Asia and winters in tropical Africa. The bird is listed as a “least concern” (LC) species on a global scale, but some parts of its range have seen a steep decline in numbers, so locally its status can be less secure.

Alison had concerns about broadcasting the location of this shrike. A Brown/Red-backed Shrike is one of those rare birds that birders will chase to add it to their list. This is especially true for the Red-backed Shrike which has never been seen before. Her concerns were noted in the original posting on MendoBirds by Robert Keiffer on March 12, 2015.

There are sensitive species in the area. All of the sidehill slopes and riparian zones with thick vegetative cover are Point Arena Mountain Beaver (Aplodontia rufu) habitat …. Do NOT go traipsing off trails to look for the bird. If you get down to the beach …this can be Snowy Plover habitat …. be aware and do not disturb plovers if you find them.

The Point Arena Mountain Beaver is listed federally as “endangered” and the Snowy Plover is listed as “threatened“.

The Brown/Red-backed Shrike made the big time this morning(3/15/15) on the ABA Blog. The first thing that had to be corrected was the spelling of Alison's last name. They had it as Sebula. That's been fixed but it's funny how Alison's concerns about the sensitive species were left off the post. I tried to correct that in the comments but who knows if they will be read. My final sentence In those comments was,

As we all know when the CHASE begins all that matters is LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.

So people have already been chasing this bird. Most have succeeded and some have failed. The furthest, as of this posting, has come from Oakland, CA. over 300 miles round trip.(see update below) A couple of birders have come from Lake County, several from inland Mendocino. One local birder north of Fort Bragg made three trips before she found it. One trip is roughly 95 miles round trip for her. I have to confess that I hitched a ride with her on her first trip. Other will try. Those that failed will try again. Remember that the EPA estimates that over .8lbs of carbon (and other pollutants) is released for every mile driven. What will this bird's carbon footprint be?

The fact that this could be a first ever Red-backed Shrike has the upper experts in the birding world debating the identification of this bird. They are waiting and hoping that the bird stays around long enough for it to molt into adult plumage. They are calling for more pictures of the bird as it molts. I was offered rides down to Alder Creek to get some of these pictures but the person who offered the ride stated in another email to another birder:

Richard is like Alison, though, by not wanting to disturb the Mountain Beavers….

So, I hope that this will work out OK. Maybe some more assertive photographers should try to go there again.


I thanked the person for the compliment and declined the offer of a free ride with the suggestion that there are many “assertive” photographers out there that will be more than willing to step on an endangered animal to get “the” picture of the shrike. There have been numerous reported incidents of birders ignoring the instructions concerning endangered species. Most birders have been considerate but those that don't give birders a bad name.

Just an update as of 3/16/15.(see next update below)

Update as of 4/07/15. Through various sources I have learned that birders have come from Rhode Island, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Colorado, and Arizona. I'm sure that's a short list. There have been many birders from the surrounding counties north, south and east of Mendocino. Most birders don't advertise where they are from except maybe to those around them when viewing the shrike. It has been Ebirded at least 90 times as of this date. Many viewers don't Ebird.

So this shrike has developed a large carbon footprint. I have a question. Would a label on a gas pump like the one below change any birder's (or any driver for that matter) behavior?

Labels on pumps is something being considered in the San Francisco Bay area. How about this next label?

I don't think people realize that their choices and life styles are affecting the environment. They can't connect the two. It's called cognitive dissonance. Canada is thinking of the following label on their gas pumps. What do you think? Will it help? Will birders when their wells run dry or are facing extreme weather finally put it all together?





One thought on “Brown/Red-backed Shrike

  1. Hello Richard and fellow fans of his Green Birding blog,

    I may have “found” a rare bird, but it was Richard who helped me ID it. I sent him the photo because I couldn’t figure it out! He and other experts reviewed the photo and “voila”, it became a brown shrike. Richard deserves credit for a very keen eye and a wealth of experience in the field. Thanks, Richard!

    As for the lovely brown shrike, I hope it finds its way home soon. It will lead a lonely life here, in spite of the whirlwind of activity surrounding it.

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