Loggerhead Shrike

Lanius ludovicianus

The Loggerhead Shrike, like all shrikes world-wide, are also known as Butcher Birds. And like all true shrikes, this bird is a small avian predator that hunts from perches and impales its prey on sharp objects such as thorns and barbed-wire fences. The term Loggerhead refers to the large size of the bird’s head relative to its body. Not all birds of prey kill with their feet. The powerful neck and bill of this bird give it the ability to take down prey as large as themselves, such as mice, bats and reptiles, though most of their diet comprises insects. The well-know practice of impaling their victims on spikes may merely be a method that allows them to tear off bite-sized pieces they can swallow.

Loggerhead Shrikes range over most of the USA, though their numbers are declining, especially in southern Canada and in the midwestern and eastern portions of their range in the USA. Across most of their range they remain year round, but some birds will migrate north in the summer, even into the Prairie Provinces of Canada, and some of their population will migrate slightly south to spend winters.

Science recognises seven subspecies of Loggerhead Shrike, and they are mainly distinguished by region, though bird-in-hand measurements can be used to separate them as well.

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