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Species Description

Loggerhead Shrike

Lanius ludovicianus


Species Image

Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Laniidae

Description

Gray top of head and back; white underparts; black "mask," wings, and tail; white patch on wings; white on edges of outer tail feathers. 23 cm (9 in) in length. Small, black bill with a hook at the end of the upper mandible.

Life Cycle

The breeding season begins in late February, peaks in April, and extends into early July. The breeding habitat is primarily open countryside with scattered shrubs and trees. The nests are placed in a thick shrub or low tree, but range from 1-9 m (3-30 feet) above the ground. The male and female both build cup-shaped nest out of twigs, bark strips, and plant material. The female lays 4-7 (usually 5-6) eggs that she incubates for 16-17 days. The young are altricial and fledge 17-21 days after hatching. The adults care for the young while in the nest and for 3-4 weeks after they fledge.

Natural History

Open countryside and pastures with scattered trees, telephone wires, and fence rows for perching are the areas that the Loggerhead Shrike frequents. The diet includes insects and small vertebrates such as amphibians, reptiles, and small birds. The Loggerhead Shrike finds food by sitting on a perch and searching for prey, which it will then catch while in flight or go to the ground to capture. It is difficult for this species to kill larger sized prey, so it will impale larger prey on thorns or barbs on a fence. These food items are eaten or cached this way for later consumption. A male may use impaled prey to attract a mate. The northern populations of the Loggerhead Shrike are migratory.

Range

Loggerhead Shrike Region Map The Loggerhead Shrike occurs throughout most of the United States during the breeding season. In the southern half of the country, including Georgia, it occurs all year. In the Southeast, this species is common in the southern areas and fairly common to uncommon in the remainder of the areas, except the mountain regions where it is very rare. Some Loggerhead Shrikes spend their winters as far south as central Mexico.

Conservation Status

The subspecies Lanius ludovicianus migrans is Federally listed as a Of Special Concern. It is also listed in Virginia as Endangered and in North Carolina as Threatened. The numbers of this subspecies in the Southeast have declined in the last 20 years. This decline in numbers may be caused by loss of habitat and increasing use of pesticides.

Similar Species

In the Southeast, the species most similar to the Loggerhead Shrike is the Northern Mockingbird. The Northern Mockingbird is a duller gray overall, has a longer tail and larger white wing patches, and lacks the black mask and hooked bill.