Loggerhead ShrikeLanius ludovicianus

adult
Bob Steele/VIREO
juvenile
Greg Lasley/VIREO
adult
Greg Lasley/VIREO
adult
James M. Wedge/VIREO

Family

Description

In open terrain, this predatory songbird watches from a wire or other high perch, then pounces on its prey: often a large insect, sometimes a small bird or a rodent. The Loggerhead is gradually disappearing from many areas, for reasons that are poorly understood.

Habitat

Semi-open country with lookout posts; wires, trees, scrub. Breeds in any kind of semi-open terrain, from large clearings in wooded regions to open grassland or desert with a few scattered trees or large shrubs. In winter, may be in totally treeless country if fences or wires provide hunting perches.

Feeding Diet

Mostly large insects, also rodents and small birds. Diet in summer is mainly insects, especially grasshoppers and crickets, also beetles, wasps, and others. Eats mice and other rodents at all seasons, especially in winter, and eats small birds. Also sometimes included in diet are spiders, snails, frogs, lizards, snakes, crayfish, small fish, and other items.

Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly by watching from an exposed perch, then swooping down to take prey on or near ground or from low vegetation. Kills its prey using its hooked bill. Often stores uneaten prey by impaling it on thorn or barbed wire, returning to eat it later.

Nesting

In many regions, nesting begins quite early in spring. In courtship, male performs short flight displays; male feeds female. Nest: Placed in a dense (and often thorny) tree or shrub, usually 5-30' above the ground, occasionally higher, in a spot well hidden by foliage. Nest (built by both sexes) is a solidly constructed but bulky cup of twigs, grass, weeds, strips of bark, lined with softer materials such as rootlets, animal hair, feathers, plant down. Eggs: 5-6, sometimes 4-8. Grayish white to pale buff, with spots of brown and gray often concentrated at large end. Incubation is by female, about 16-17 days. Male feeds female during incubation (sometimes bringing her food he has stored on thorns earlier). Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest at about 17-21 days, are tended by parents for another 3-4 weeks.

Eggs

5-6, sometimes 4-8. Grayish white to pale buff, with spots of brown and gray often concentrated at large end. Incubation is by female, about 16-17 days. Male feeds female during incubation (sometimes bringing her food he has stored on thorns earlier). Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest at about 17-21 days, are tended by parents for another 3-4 weeks.

Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest at about 17-21 days, are tended by parents for another 3-4 weeks.

Conservation

During recent decades, numbers have declined in many areas; now essentially gone from the northeast. Reasons for decline poorly understood, may be related to pesticides and/or changes in habitat.

Range

Migrates rather early in spring, but in some southern areas, local birds may begin nesting while winter residents from north are still present.

Listen

song #1
song #2
calls
calls & clacks

Similar Species

adult

Northern Mockingbird

This bird's famous song, with its varied repetitions and artful imitations, is heard all day during nesting season (and often all night as well). Very common in towns and cities, especially in southern areas, the Mockingbird often seeks insects on open lawns. When running in the open it may stop every few feet and partly spread its wings, flashing the white wing patches. Mockingbirds are bold in defense of their nests, attacking cats and even humans that venture too close.

adult

Northern Shrike

This tough bird feeds on rodents and smaller birds for much of the year. It spends the summer in the far north, appearing in southern Canada and the lower 48 States only in winter. Solitary and wary, the shrike is likely to be seen perched at the top of a lone tree in an open field, watching for prey.

adult

Clark's Nutcracker

This bird often lives in places remote from human contact, near treeline on windy western peaks. Where it does encounter people, however, it seems fearless, striding about in picnic grounds and scenic-view parking lots, looking for handouts. Nutcrackers are champions at burying pine seeds (sometimes tens of thousands) in hidden caches in fall, then re-finding them during winter; these seed stores allow them to nest in late winter, when the forest is still covered with snow.

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