Northern Shrike and Loggerhead Shrike
Lanius excubitor and Lanius ludovicianus
also known as butcherbirds
A change in the weather has spurred the annual fall migration for many bird species, including the easily mistakable Northern Shrike and Loggerhead Shrike. These similar species can be identified by their gray back, white throat and chest, black mask and wings, and a stout, black bill with a hook at the end. Both Shrikes are carnivorous and share common behaviors. For example, their diets consist of birds and reptiles in addition to agricultural pests such as grasshoppers, beetles, rodents or other small mammals. The small hook at the end of their bill is used to paralyze their prey, typically by jabbing the victim at the neck. These birds are also known to impale their prey on thorns, spines, or barbed wire. The prey may be consumed immediately or stored away in “pantries” to consume later when food is scarce, or when energy demands are high in the breeding season. Thus, the family name Laniidae is derived from the Latin word for “butcher” due to their brutal feeding habits. Both species rely on open country with short vegetation, riparian areas, and agricultural fields to survive. Maintaining cool, clean waters in our streams, ponds, and riparian areas through buffer zones planted with native vegetation will promote greater insect diversity for their carnivorous appetite.
Although similar in appearance and behavior, the Northern Shrike migrates south to Douglas County only during the winter season while the Loggerhead Shrike migrates north to Douglas County during the summer, or breeding season. Populations of Loggerhead Shrikes are permanent residents in southern Washington, such as Yakima and Benton County; it is plausible Douglas County has permanent residents pending the identifier has honed their skills to distinguish the pair.
Foster Creek CD has opportunities and funding to assess and improve rangeland habitat. If you are interested in learning more about conservation stewardship or enhancing degraded habitat, contact us today at 509-888-6372.
Source: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds