Northern Shrike

Silhouette ShrikesShrikes

Northern Shrike

Lanius borealis
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Laniidae
Basic Description

The burly, bull-headed Northern Shrike is a pint-sized predator of birds, small mammals, and insects. A bold black mask and stout, hooked bill heighten the impression of danger in these fierce predators. They breed in far northern North America and come as far south as the northern U.S. for winter. They hunt in brushy, semiopen habitats, chasing after birds, creeping through dense brush to ambush prey, or pouncing on mice. They often save food for later by impaling it on thorns or barbed wire.

More ID Info
image of range map for Northern ShrikeRange map provided by Birds of the WorldExplore Maps

Find This Bird

Northern Shrikes breed in the remote north, so it's best to look for them in winter, when they may come as far south as Utah or Pennsylvania. They occur in open but brushy habitats, and on calm, sunny days they may sit up on utility wires, bushes, and trees. They do often sit concealed from view, so you may need some patience. They hold territories during winter, so repeat sightings are likely if you can find a known winter territory through word of mouth or via eBird records.

Other Names
  • Alcaudón Boreal (Spanish)
  • Pie-grièche boréale (French)

Backyard Tips

In winter, may show up near bird feeders to hunt the birds that visit them.

  • Cool Facts