Loggerhead Shrikes

Ninja Assassins

Loggerhead Shrike in December
Loggerhead Shrike in December

Silly bird. Hiding your eyes behind a ninja turtle mask won’t make you invisible …

I suppose the purpose must be to conceal its identity from oblivious and uninformed birdwatchers like me.

I saw quite a few of these pretty birds in the spring but up until today I didn’t know what they were. They are loggerhead shrikes — a threatened species. I was surprised and saddened to hear about their status.

Not secretive at all, I have frequently seen them perched on lamp posts and trees watching everything that goes on around them. The startle distance is about the same as for a mockingbird. This one in particular was adorably curious — it even flew toward me to see what exactly I was up to. If only I had a fat juicy bug to reward its bravery! (note to self …. )

loggerhead shrike
Loggerhead Shrike

They are excellent fliers. Watching them hunt is breathtaking. They don’t seem to attack other birds; they target grasshoppers and their ilk. And that I assume is the source of their survival issues: death from poisoning. They’ve actually been extirpated from at least one state. I hope they can continue to find a safe refuge here in Austin. I already thought they were delightful but now I appreciate their presence even more.

For more information about their gruesome hunting habits, songs and more I invite you to check out Cornell’s All About Birds site.

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26 thoughts on “Loggerhead Shrikes

  1. Loggerhead Shrikes and their close relative the Northern Shrike, will take small birds on occasion. They have the lovely nickname of “Butcher Bird”.
    Your captures are very nice!

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  2. Beautiful bird. Very sleek looking. Thank you for the fine story about them. Upon arriving in Cape Town, South Africa, last year, the first thing I noticed was the racket that all of the fowl was making. It was trilling to see so many birds, and in so many colours and shapes. One of my favorites was the magpie shrike. They are such intelligent birds and they have these really long beautiful tails. They are a wonder to watch in flight. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magpie_shrike

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  3. I’ve never seen a shrike here west of town (or anywhere in Austin, come to think of it). I’m going to investigate and see what I could do to potentially draw them in to my spaces. I certainly have lots of (un-poisoned) grasshoppers to offer! They’d be welcome to eat all they wanted.

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  4. Isn’ t he beautiful? You show such unusual birds and bugs in your posts that I sometimes think you must have made them up. Specially with a name like that. Loggerhead shrike, wonderful!

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    1. The gray jay is one of my most favourite birds! When I lived in Canada and went hiking in the mountains they would swoop down and eat right out of my hand. I had no idea they could be found in the U.S.

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      1. We noticed them in northern NM at high elevation. They came by us in a group, sat on branches to check us out, cocked their head to the side wondering what they could eat. They were fun to have around.

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    1. Oh my gosh! What a beautiful bird. I’ve never seen one before so thx for the link. If that is the kind of bird being pushed out from your feeders I can see why sparrows and grackles are so frustrating. wow.

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      1. To be honest, they don’t come to the feeders, they hunt in the leaf litter. I have stopped putting out safflower and the English Sparrows have all but disappeared. Plenty of woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees, though. I am at peace. Though I am missing the Northern Cardinals.

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    1. I saw this fellow near the pond at the Mueller greenbelt on the wild side of the park. There is a trail parallel to 38 1/2 Street. If you follow that trail east and go past the giant spider sculpture to the next street you can almost always see one perching on the lamp posts.

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        1. It is a good trail for critters. That is where I saw the armadillo, too. Luckily, shrikes like sunlight. You won’t have to get up early to see them. I usually see them around noon +/- a couple of hours.

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