The Loggerhead Shrike is a robin-sized gray songbird with black wings, white wing-patches, a black mask and black tail. It lives in landscapes with short grass and isolated trees or shrubs.
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An opportunistic forager, the Loggerhead Shrike eats insects, amphibians, small reptiles, mammals, birds, and even road kill and carrion. It often forages in recently plowed fields. Because it lacks heavy talons with which to capture and hold larger prey, the Loggerhead Shrike swoops down from a perch and attacks from behind with its powerful hooked bill. It impales prey on thorns or barbed-wire in fences in order to dismember or store it. This practice has earned the shrike the nickname “butcher bird.”
Home Sweet Home
The Loggerhead Shrike is found year-round in the southern half of the United States and most of Mexico, and during the summer in eastern Washington and Oregon, the northern Great Plains, and the Midwest. Adequate cover is the most important requirement for places to nest, and Loggerhead Shrikes prefer trees with thorns. The nest is usually well hidden and located on top of an existing nest.
How Am I Doing?
One of Audubon's Common Birds in Decline, the Loggerhead Shrike has seen its population plummet 72 percent since 1967. The decline of Loggerhead Shrikes is similar to that of other grassland and so-called early successional species. The problem is that much of the farmland in northeastern states (where shrikes are no longer found) has been abandoned and is either reverting to forest or being converted to suburbs or other human development. In the rest of the country, farmland is being used more intensively, leaving dwindling habitat for Loggerhead Shrikes and other grassland-loving birds.
Listen to the Loggerhead Shrike
Help from Audubon
Efforts to restore grassland habitat offer the best hope for this species. One example is Audubon California’s work to protect up to 240,000 acres of Tejon Ranch, including areas critical for Loggerhead Shrikes and other grassland birds.
The Loggerhead Shrike “cures” poisonous prey, like monarch butterflies and eastern narrow-mouthed toads, by hanging it for several days to allow the poison to break down.