Quick Facts

Species Type

Native

Size

7-9 inches in lengths; 11-12.6 inch wingspan

Habitat

Open landscapes with scattered shrubs and trees or forested areas with large openings

Range

Loggerhead shrikes are found in all of the United States and into parts of Mexico and Canada. They migrate to the Chesapeake region in the spring and leave in the fall, though many overwinter here.

Diet

Small birds, rodents and insects

Lifespan

Between 7 and 8 years

Conservation Status

Endangered

Appearance

Loggerhead shrikes are gray with a black mask, white throat and a black, hooked beak. Its wings are black with flashes of white and its tail is black with white corners. Loggerhead shrikes are thick-bodied birds that are around 8 inches long.

Feeding

Loggerhead shrikes are formidable hunters of small birds, rodents and insects. They have a powerful, hooked bill and a notch near the tip of their beak that helps them snap the necks of their prey. The birds scans for its prey while sitting on low, exposed perches, and will often take their prey by surprise from behind. They are known for impaling larger prey on thorns or barbed wire to eat later.

Predators

Larger birds such as magpies and crows are predators of loggerhead shrikes. Snakes will also attack them and will eat their eggs. Domestic cats also kill billions of songbirds every year, including shrike.

Flight

Loggerhead shrikes tend to hover and use bursts of very rapid wingbeats.

Voice

The loggerhead shrike’s song is a series of harsh, two-note phrases repeated rhythmically. Their calls are grating noises that can be heard at a distance.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Loggerhead shrikes begin breeding toward the end of March and into April, and lay their eggs during April to May. Females incubate a clutch of four to six eggs in their nest that will hatch after about 16 days. Chicks fledge (develop wing feathers large enough to fly) for around 16 days and then leave the nest. During the fall, loggerhead shrikes migrate to warmer climates, though some with overwinter in the Chesapeake area.

Did You Know?

  • Loggerhead shrikes have been referred to as “butcher birds” because they impale prey on sharp objects.
  • Went hunting, loggerhead shrikes make up for their weak talons by surprising their prey from behind.
  • Shrikes are passerines or “perching birds,” a group that includes many familiar backyard birds.

Sources and Additional Information