Loggerhead Shrike

Lanius ludovicianus
A Loggerhead Shrike specimen on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A medium-sized (9 inches) shrike, the Loggerhead Shrike is most easily identified by its gray body, dark wings, and large hooked bill. Other field marks include a black tail with white edges, a black eye-stripe, and white “wrists” visible on the underside of the wings. This species may be separated from the Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor) by the latter species’ faintly barred breast and from the Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) by that species’ large white wing patches. Male and female Loggerhead Shrikes are similar to one another in all seasons. The Loggerhead Shrike breeds across the southern and southwestern United States as well as the Great Plains and locally in the Great Lakes region. Breeding populations also exist at higher elevations in northern and central Mexico. Northern Loggerhead Shrike populations are migratory, moving south in winter as far as Mexico. Loggerhead Shrikes inhabit a variety of open habitats, including grasslands, agricultural fields, and deserts. This species utilizes similar habitats in winter as in summer, especially those populations which are non-migratory. Loggerhead Shrikes eat a variety of small animals, including insects, small mammals, and birds. Loggerhead Shrikes are most easily observed perching in prominent areas, such as on bare branches, while watching for prey. This species impales its prey on thorns or barbed wire, and birdwatchers who stumble across one of these “larders” would likely find a Loggerhead Shrike nearby. This species is primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Uncommon permanent resident, decreasing in numbers. Found along roadsides in agricultural areas, frequently perched on wires. Breeds from mid-April to late June. The shrike impales its prey upon thorns, as shown here. Sexes are similar.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Lanius ludovicianus

Sound from xeno-canto. XC67071 Lanius ludovicianus (Loggerhead Shrike)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC67074 Lanius ludovicianus (Loggerhead Shrike)