AGFC Bird of the Week: Loggerhead Shrike

The Loggerhead Shrike is a songbird with a raptor's habits. --THV11.com 03/10/16

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AGFC) - 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.

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.  (Source: Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Loggerhead Shrikes are present in Arkansas year-round, and are listed as locally fairly common.  This means that they are fairly common where there is the right type of habitat.  They look similar to a Northern Mockingbird at first glance, but upon closer inspection the differences between the two are obvious.  The shrike’s head is, as its name suggests, quite large!  It’s bill is sharp and downcurved, similar to a raptor, and its tail is comparatively shorter than that of a mockingbird.  The distinctive black mask of the shrike removes all question of which it could be.

These birds are just SO INTERESTING!  They are neat to watch, and like many birds, they are starting to set up breeding territories and choose nest sites during this time of year.  If you see a shrike (or better yet, a pair of shrikes) hanging around a certain area right now, that is likely where he will be found well into the summer months as he raises his brood.  Look for his territory borders to be “drawn” with large insects, mice, toads, frogs, and lizards hung on barbed wire, the ends of small tree limbs, and thorns.  Their nest is a sturdy open cup nest, which will be perched in the fork of a shrub or low tree, about 3 or 4 feet off the ground.  Just remember that while observing birds and their nests from a distance is great, don’t get too close or intrude in their space, as bird nests, eggs, and nestlings are all federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act!

(Source: AGFC)


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