Wild Birds

Loggerhead Shrikes

The Loggerhead Shrikes (Lanius ludovicianus) is a passerine bird. It is the only member of the shrike family endemic to North America.

Loggerhead Shrike
Loggerhead Shrike


Distribution / Range

Their breeding habitat is semi-open areas in southern Ontario, Quebec and Alberta, south to Mexico.

They are permanent residents in the southern part of their range; northern birds migrate further south.

The population of this species has declined in the northeastern parts of their range, possibly due to loss of suitable habitat and pesticide use.

Breeding / Nesting

They nest in a dense tree or shrub. The female lays 4 to 8 eggs in a bulky cup built from twigs and grass.

Diet / Feeding

They mainly eat large insects, rodents, and small birds. These birds wait on a perch with open lines of sight and swoop down to capture prey.

Known in many parts as a “Butcher Bird,” they impale their prey on thorns or barbed wire before eating it since they do not have the talons of the larger birds of prey.

Loggerhead Shrike with snack
Loggerhead Shrike


Another distinguishing feature of this bird, besides its coloration, is its flight, and wing beats. It is very non-aerodynamic looking and is reminiscent of how an ungainly helicopter would try to move forward. It is presumed this feature gives the bird a high range of motions, and flight maneuverability, for changing directions.

These birds have a large hooked bill; the head and back are grey with white underparts. They have black wings and tails, with white patches on the wings and white on the outer tail feathers. Unlike the similar but slightly larger Northern Shrike, the black face mask extends over the bill.

“Loggerhead” refers to the relatively large head as compared to the rest of the body.

Similar Species:

  • The Northern Shrike or Great Grey Shrike is very similar to the Loggerhead Shrike but is larger with a black mask that does not extend across the top of the bill, a paler gray overall color and faintly barred underparts. Immature northern shrikes are browner than immature Loggerheads.
  • Northern Mockingbirds have slimmer bills and lack the distinctive black mask of the Loggerhead Shrike.

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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