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Loggerhead Shrike Lanius ludovicianus


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Loggerhead Shrike
credit: Terry Ross/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Laniidae, Shrikes view all from this family

Description ADULT Has blue-gray upperparts with white margin to mantle. Dark mask extends around the forehead, above bill line, defined above by narrow white line above, and white cheeks and throat below. Wings are mainly black, but with a small white patch (obvious in flight) at the base of the primaries. Tail is long and wedge-shaped, mainly black but with white outer tips. Underparts pale; whitest on throat, darkest on breast. JUVENILE Similar, but has scaly-looking upperparts due to pale feather margins; underparts are faintly barred.

Dimensions Length: 8-10" (20-25 cm)

Endangered Status The San Clemente Loggerhead Shrike, a subspecies of the Loggerhead Shrike, is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as endangered in California. This bird is one of the rarest vertebrates in North America, with a population of just 16 adults recorded in 1999. It lives only on San Clemente Island, in the Channel Islands. The introduction of pigs, goats, and deer to the island resulted in drastic changes to the ecosystem, as these animals removed vegetation that the shrike and other species required. Removal of many of these feral animals has allowed the habitat to begin to recover. Continued careful monitoring may permit this subspecies to survive.

Habitat Widespread, but declining resident, across much of its range, favoring open country such as meadows and farmland with plenty of perches, bushes, and trees. Northernmost populations are migratory, moving south in fall.

Observation Tips Seldom numerous but usually conspicuous when perched on wire fences or bushes.

Range Texas, Great Lakes, Southwest, Mid-Atlantic, New England, Florida, Plains, Rocky Mountains, California, Northwest, Western Canada, Southeast, Eastern Canada

Voice Song is a series of repeated, harsh chirping ch'Wee phrases; call is a harsh chakk.

Discussion Striking gray, black, and white predatory passerine that perches on wires and dead branches. Prey ranges from insects to small birds and mammals. Often impales larger prey on thorns or barbed wire and uses its powerful hooked bill to dismember the victim. Can be confused with larger Northern Shrike, from which it is distinguished by its smaller body and bill, shorter wings and tail, and various subtle plumage differences. Of the two, Loggerhead is the one that is widespread and present year-round across much of southern U.S.; Northern Shrike is a winter visitor. Sexes are similar.