The loggerhead shrike (Lanius
ludovicianus) is a passerine bird. It is the only member of the shrike family
endemic to North America
The bird has a large hooked bill; the
head and back are grey and the underparts white. The wings and tail are black,
with white patches on the wings and white on the outer tail feather. The black
face mask extends over the eye, unlike that of the similar but slightly larger
northern shrike. "Loggerhead" refers to the relatively large size of the head as
compared to the rest of the body.
The bird breeds in semi-open areas in
southern Ontario, Quebec and the Canadian prairie provinces, south to Mexico. It
nests in dense trees and shrubs. The female lays 4 to 8 eggs in a bulky cup made
of twigs and grass. There is an increase in average clutch size as latitude
increases. The shrike is a permanent resident in the southern part of the range;
northern birds migrate farther south.
The bird waits on a perch with open
lines of sight and swoops down to capture prey. Its food is large insects, small
birds and lizards. Known in many parts as the "butcher bird," it impales its
prey on thorns or barbed wire before eating it, because it does not have the
talons of the larger birds of prey. The bird decorates its impaled victim with
feathers and bills in order to attract a mate. Loggerhead shrikes are perhaps
the only known predators of eastern lubber grasshoppers (Romalea guttata) and
will consume the head and abdomen of these very large insects, leaving behind
the poisonous and foul-tasting thorax.
The population of this species has
declined in the northeastern parts of its range, possibly due to loss of
suitable habitat and pesticide use.
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