|Conservation status||During recent decades, numbers have declined in many areas; now essentially gone from the northeast. Reasons for decline poorly understood, may be related to pesticides and/or changes in habitat.|
|Habitat||Semi-open country with lookout posts; wires, trees, scrub. Breeds in any kind of semi-open terrain, from large clearings in wooded regions to open grassland or desert with a few scattered trees or large shrubs. In winter, may be in totally treeless country if fences or wires provide hunting perches.|
Forages mostly by watching from an exposed perch, then swooping down to take prey on or near ground or from low vegetation. Kills its prey using its hooked bill. Often stores uneaten prey by impaling it on thorn or barbed wire, returning to eat it later.
5-6, sometimes 4-8. Grayish white to pale buff, with spots of brown and gray often concentrated at large end. Incubation is by female, about 16-17 days. Male feeds female during incubation (sometimes bringing her food he has stored on thorns earlier). Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest at about 17-21 days, are tended by parents for another 3-4 weeks.
Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest at about 17-21 days, are tended by parents for another 3-4 weeks.
Mostly large insects, also rodents and small birds. Diet in summer is mainly insects, especially grasshoppers and crickets, also beetles, wasps, and others. Eats mice and other rodents at all seasons, especially in winter, and eats small birds. Also sometimes included in diet are spiders, snails, frogs, lizards, snakes, crayfish, small fish, and other items.
In many regions, nesting begins quite early in spring. In courtship, male performs short flight displays; male feeds female. Nest: Placed in a dense (and often thorny) tree or shrub, usually 5-30' above the ground, occasionally higher, in a spot well hidden by foliage. Nest (built by both sexes) is a solidly constructed but bulky cup of twigs, grass, weeds, strips of bark, lined with softer materials such as rootlets, animal hair, feathers, plant down.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Migrates rather early in spring, but in some southern areas, local birds may begin nesting while winter residents from north are still present.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsA variety of harsh and musical notes and trills; a thrasher-like series of double phrases.
Learn more about this sound collection.