- 9.1–9.4 in
- 11.8–13.8 in
- 2–2.8 oz
- Great Grey Shrike (British)
- Pie-grièche grise (French)
- 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.
Breeds 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.
Insects, small mammals, birds, and rarely, reptiles.
- Clutch Size
- 4–9 eggs
- Egg Description
- Grayish or greenish white, heavily marked with brown spots and blotches.
- Condition at Hatching
- Helpless with little down.
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.
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.
Population 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.
- Cade, T. J., and E. C. Atkinson. 2002. Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor). In The Birds of North America, No. 671 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
- North American Bird Conservation Initiative, U.S. Committee. 2014. State of the Birds 2014 Report. U.S. Department of Interior, Washington, DC.
Partners in Flight. 2012. Species assessment database.
- USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. 2015. Longevity records of North American Birds.