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Uh Oh, Three Shrikes and You’re Out!

We often have nests in our Mulberry tree in early summer. Just this weekend,  a pair of Shrikes took up housekeeping and were raising a noisy brood of three. A baby bird’s life is spent sleeping and opening its mouth for food. Parents diligently relay back and forth to feed these little bottomless chirping fuzz balls. Fortunately, they grow fast and within 17-20 days, they have enough flight feathers to leave home.

The fledglings began testing their wings. All was well until a gopher snake got a late night craving for the nestlings. You may not be aware that some snakes can and do climb trees to find delicacies. This was not the first time I’d seen a gopher snake climb a tree … the same tree, in fact.


This gopher snake was determined to go after the fledglings. I moved him with my snake stick. A few hours later, the snake was prowling around the tree again.

These nestlings were living on borrowed time. The next morning a whirlwind hit the backyard and I happened to see two of the baby Shrikes on the ground. I rescued them, placing them on a towel in the bathtub. Cute little guys but I didn’t have any bird “food” to keep them quiet.


I was determined to keep them safe. I thought that if I could bring the nest to them, I may have a nice cozy environment for them. I went back to check the nest and Mama Shrike was bouncing from branch to branch scolding me about the loss of her babies. While staring up at her, I noticed another fledgling. This one was caught on a piece of stringy fiber in the nest. I had to cut him loose to rescue him.  He was weak and didn’t look strong enough to survive the day.


I got on the Internet to look for some help. Bird rescue groups flourish throughout the state of California. I chose a few numbers to call and reached a bird rescue group in Calimesa. I just needed advice. And she was helpful. She supported the idea to replace the fledglings back into their nest. When my husband returned home from work, we were able to place  the babies back into their nest. But, as birds often do, they kept flopping out and landing hard on the ground.

three shrikes and you're out_06072013

By next morning, after my drive to town for a few groceries, my dogs had caught the snake at the base of the Mulberry again. I scooted the dogs back into the house for round two with the gopher snake. I moved him away with my snake stick. In a few hours, the result of our rescue attempt was a failure for two of the birds. My husband found that the one remaining baby bird seemed to have left the yard.

We’re hopeful that he was the strongest of his siblings. Mama Shrike watched our coming and going for the rest of the day. She still thinks we are holding them for ransom.


another angry bird

In nature, without our interference, bird fledglings are subjected to hunters from the air and the ground, weather, falling from the nest, lack of food if the parents don’t return, and disease. I can only hope that our feeble attempts were enough for one Shrike to grow up and stay on the ranch.


Rusty LaGrange

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