Living Bird Magazine
Northern ShrikeLanius borealis
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Laniidae
A predatory songbird, the Northern Shrike breeds in taiga and tundra and winters in southern Canada and the northern United States. It feeds on small birds, mammals, and insects, sometimes impaling them on spines or barbed wire fences.More ID Info
- Alcaudón Boreal (Spanish)
- Pie-grièche boréale (French)
- Cool Facts
- The Northern Shrike, like other shrikes, kills more prey, if it can, than it can immediately eat or feed to nestlings. Such behavior was characterized by early observers as "wanton killing," but the Northern Shrike stores excess prey to eat later. Storing food is an adaptation for surviving periods of food scarcity.
- The Latin species name of the Northern Shrike, Lanius excubitor, means "Butcher watchman."
- The nest of the Northern Shrike is an open cup, but it is so deep that while incubating, the female is completely out of view except for the tip of her tail.
- Both male and female Northern Shrikes sing throughout year. The male sings especially in late winter and early spring.
- The oldest recorded Northern Shrike a female, and at least 8 years, 7 months old, when she was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Wisconsin.