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Loggerhead Shrike

Lanius ludovicianus ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: LANIIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Loggerhead Shrike is a songbird with a raptor’s habits. A denizen of grasslands and other open habitats throughout much of North America, this masked black, white, and gray predator hunts from utility poles, fence posts and other conspicuous perches, preying on insects, birds, lizards, and small mammals. Lacking a raptor’s talons, Loggerhead Shrikes skewer their kills on thorns or barbed wire or wedge them into tight places for easy eating. Their numbers have dropped sharply in the last half-century.

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Songs

Loggerhead Shrikes sing quiet songs composed of a rhythmic series of short trills, rasps, and buzzes mixed with clear, often descending notes. Both males and females perform a territory song, similar to the spring song but rougher and harsher.

Calls

Both sexes utter a variety of muttered trills, stutters and scolds.

Other Sounds

When defending nest sites or when fledglings are dangerously close to predators, female Loggerhead Shrikes rapidly click their bills to produce a staccato sound.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Find This Bird

In the South, Loggerhead Shrikes are quite common and you can quite easily find them by scanning fence posts, power poles and lines, and other obvious perches in open country. The species has become quite rare in the Northeast and upper Midwest and finding it there is much more problematic. However, your best bets involve searching areas of rough grassland with scattered shrubs and trees for the bird or for their caches of prey. In the West, Loggerhead Shrikes can be fairly common in similar open habitats. Loggerhead Shrikes also sometimes hover while hunting, so watch for hovering birds that seem too small to be American Kestrels.

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At Loggerheads Over a Shrike: story and photos in Living Bird magazine