Northern Shrike Life History


Habitat Open WoodlandsBreeds in taiga and at the border of taiga and tundra, in open country with medium or tall trees or shrubs. Winters in open country with tall perches, including shrubby fields, wetlands, and forest edges.Back to top


Food BirdsInsects, small mammals, birds, and rarely, reptiles.Back to top


Nest Placement

Nest Tree

Nest Description

Large, bulky cup of twigs and roots, woven through with feathers and hair. Compact inner lining made of grasses, small feathers, and hair. Placed in trees and shrubs.

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size:4-9 eggs
Number of Broods:1 brood
Egg Length:1.0-1.1 in (2.6-2.8 cm)
Egg Width:0.8-0.8 in (1.9-2.1 cm)
Incubation Period:14-21 days
Nestling Period:18-20 days
Egg Description:Grayish or greenish white, heavily marked with brown spots and blotches.
Condition at Hatching:Helpless with little down.
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Behavior Aerial Dive (ground/talons)Generally sits and waits on an exposed perch. Seizes prey near ground with feet or bill. Kills vertebrates by biting through neck. Removes wings, spines, and stingers from insects. Often impales prey, sometimes while prey is still alive, on thorns, spines, or barbed wire. May pull impaled prey and consume it right away, or may leave it for later consumption.Back to top


Conservation Low ConcernPopulation trends of Northern Shrike are difficult to assess because of the the species' rarity and the remoteness of its breeding habitat. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 9 million with 13% spending some part of the year in the Canada, and 15% wintering in the U.S. They are a U.S.-Canada Stewardship species and rate a 9 out of 20 on the Contiental Concern Score. They are not listed in the 2014 State of the Birds Report. Large areas of suitable breeding habitat in Alaska and northern Canada are protected.Back to top


Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2015.2. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2015.

North American Bird Conservation Initiative. (2014). The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

Partners in Flight (2017). Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, USA.

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