Bird’s ID – Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike


The Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) is a passerine bird in the family Laniidae. It is the only member of the shrike family endemic to North America; the related northern shrike (L. borealis) occurs north of its range but also in the eastern Palearctic. It is nicknamed the butcherbird after its carnivorous tendencies, as it consumes prey such as amphibians, insects, lizards, small mammals and small birds, and some prey end up displayed and stored at a site, for example in a tree. Due to its small size and weak talons, this predatory bird relies on impaling its prey upon thorns or barbed wire for facilitated consumption.The numbers of Loggerhead shrike have significantly decreased in recent years, especially in Midwestern, New England and Mid-Atlantic areas.

The loggerhead shrike is a medium-sized passerine.”Loggerhead” refers to the relatively large size of the head as compared to the rest of the body. It measures approximately 9 inches from bill to tail. The wing and tail length is about 3.82 and 3.87 inches long, respectively. It weighs on average 50 grams, with a range of 45-60 grams for a healthy adult shrike. The adult plumage of the loggerhead shrike is grey above, with a white to pale grey breast and black tarsi and feet. The bird possesses a black mask that extends across the eyes to its bill. The wings are black, with a distinct white patch on the primaries. The tail is black edged with white and the irises are brown. The beak is short, black, and hooked, and contains a tomial tooth to help tear into prey. It is difficult to sex an adult loggerhead shrike in the field, as they are sexually monochromatic.However, several studies have reported sexual dimorphism in plumage and size traits. Juveniles possess a paler gray plumage that is subtly vermiculated.

The bird requires an open habitat with an area to forage, elevated perches and nesting sites. They are often found in open pastures or grasslands and appears to prefer red-cedar and hawthorn trees for nesting. The hawthornโ€™s thorns and the cedarโ€™s pin-like needles protect and conceal the shrike from predators. It may also nest in fence-rows or hedge-rows near open pastures, and requires elevated perches as lookout points for hunting. Open pastures and grasslands with shorter vegetation are preferred by loggerhead shrikes, as they increase the bird’s hunting efficiency. Longer vegetation often requires more time and energy to be spent searching for prey, so these birds gravitate towards areas of shorter vegetation.

Loggerhead shrikes have been repeatedly observed killing prey larger than themselves by spearing the neck or head of the animal and twisting. The speed at which this occurs causes a whiplash injury to the animal. The neck strength of the shrikes compensates,


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ยฉ HJ Ruiz – Avian101

8 thoughts on “Bird’s ID – Loggerhead Shrike

  1. The first time I saw a loggerhead shrike it was engaged in eating a baby bird it had impaled. I thought I’d encountered some horrible aberration — then I found out it’s a feature, not a bug, as they computer programmers like to say. Still, they’re intriguing birds: quite striking, and always fun to come across.

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