Bird GuideShrikesLoggerhead Shrike

At a Glance

In open terrain, this predatory songbird watches from a wire or other high perch, then pounces on its prey: often a large insect, sometimes a small bird or a rodent. The Loggerhead is gradually disappearing from many areas, for reasons that are poorly understood.
Perching Birds, Shrikes
Near Threatened
Desert and Arid Habitats, Fields, Meadows, and Grasslands, Forests and Woodlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets, Urban and Suburban Habitats
California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Flitter, Hovering, Undulating

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Migrates rather early in spring, but in some southern areas, local birds may begin nesting while winter residents from north are still present.


8-10" (20-25 cm). Slim, perches horizontally. Black mask, black wings and tail with white markings visible mostly in flight. Juvenile has very narrow gray barring. In cold climates, compare to Northern Shrike.
About the size of a Robin
Black, Gray, White
Wing Shape
Tail Shape
Long, Rounded

Songs and Calls

A variety of harsh and musical notes and trills; a thrasher-like series of double phrases.
Call Pattern
Flat, Rising, Undulating
Call Type
Chirp/Chip, Scream, Trill, Whistle


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.



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).


Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest at about 17-21 days, are tended by parents for another 3-4 weeks.

Feeding Behavior

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.


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.

Climate Vulnerability

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.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Loggerhead Shrike. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Loggerhead Shrike

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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