Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)

 

Life History & Michigan History

 

The genus "Lanius" is Latin for butcher. Its name "shrike" refers to shriek like call the bird makes. The "shrieking butcher" almost sounds like the title to a grade B horror movie. Yet, both names are appropriate for one of Michigan's most unusual birds.

 

Loggerhead ShrikeThe loggerhead shrike is a robin-size bird. In keeping with its Halloweenish character, the bird "wears" a black eye mask across a gray head. The rest of its body is also gray with black wings and tail. The shrike prefers to live in open areas with shrubby hedgerows intermixed with some type of thorny bushes such as hawthorn.

 

The shrike is the only Michigan non-raptor (hawks and owls are raptors) that actively hunts for mice. Mice and other small rodents are an important part of the shrike's winter diet.

 

During the summer, they feed primarily on grasshoppers, crickets, and beetles.

Shrikes prefer to sit on an exposed tree limb looking for prey. They pounce on their prey from either a hovering flight above, or from their perch.

 

Returning to a hawthorn or similar bush, they impale their meal on one of the thorns. They can then strip their meal as they feed. Thus, the name "butcher bird."

 

The loggerhead shrike is listed as an endangered species in Michigan. Much of its preferred habitat, open shrubby land once abundant in cattle pastures, has either been planted to crops or grown into young forests. There is a great deal to learn about the shrike's preferred nesting and feeding requirements. This information will help preserve the loggerhead shrike as part of Michigan's natural heritage.

 

Non-DNR Links

Identification Tips and More (USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center)

Lanius ludovicianus (University of Michigan, Museum of Zoology)