At quick glance the Loggerhead Shrike resembles a chunky Northern Mockingbird, but a closer look reveals a black mask, white rump, and large head. The “big-headed” appearance is the reason behind its name.
Shrikes are unique in that they are both top level predators and passerines. These birds feed on a variety of prey items, such as small birds and mammals, snakes, invertebrates, frogs, and salamanders. They have some raptor-like features, such as a hooked bill, but lack strong feet and talons for shredding prey. To make up for this, the shrike impales its prey on thorns or barbed wire fences. This behavior allows it to consume prey that is larger than it could otherwise handle, and may also be a way to impress a mate.
Loggerhead Shrikes are found year-round in North Carolina, in open areas such as pastures, open woods, fields, and mowed roadsides. Look for this bird on power lines and fences around these areas. Pairs are highly territorial and stay together in the breeding territory all year, and solitary birds found in winter are generally believed to be migrants.
Like many species of grassland birds, Loggerhead Shrikes numbers have been falling across their range. Causes of this decline include habitat loss and pesticides. Wake Audubon hopes by selecting this bird as our bird of the year that we can focus some attention on its plight.
Debra Carr caught a video of the shrike, complete with song!Bird of the Year Index