Sunday, January 5, 2014

Short-tailed Shrew

Up popped a shrew from a hole underneath the bird feeder. I should have listened to my wife.  Erika immediately identified the critter as a Short-tailed Shrew. Because of the white throat and white patch behind the eye, I was not so sure. I asked for help from the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union listserv. All the two dozen respondents agreed with Erika. The tail is just too short for it to be anything else. Thanks to all of those people who responded to my plea for help.

What about the white on the head? If you enlarge your computer view of these photos, you may notice that the white is bare skin, not fur. Apparently this shrew suffers from mange. Many of my correspondents mentioned that, in the winter, Short-tailed Shrews commonly forage under bird feeders.

This year is not the first time we have had a shrew under our feeder. Last year a shrew poked its head out from under the snow cover. Before we could fetch our camera, a Red-tailed Hawk swooped down and carried away the poor shrew. As Tom Klein wrote, “I would hate to be an insectivore at this time of year.” 

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