A Friendly Loggerhead Shrike Ends My Drought

by Larry Jordan on January 31, 2012

Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) photos by Larry Jordan

It all started with the Fall River Christmas Bird Count (CBC) back on December 17th. Well actually it started a week or so before that with the rare bird alert of the Falcated Duck at Colusa National Wildlife Refuge. Then there were the unusual sightings of Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter and Black Scoter, all seen in and around Turtle Bay! Come on, these are coastal birds not usually found 150 miles inland on the Sacramento River.

Well, during the Fall River CBC, some of the participants found more rare birds for Shasta County, but I didn’t know about them until I returned to our meeting place to carpool back to Redding. Apparently there was a Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea) flocking with some Savannah Sparrows…

and an American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea) with a flock of Juncos.

I took the above two photos on a trip back up to Fall River Mills to see these rare sightings but I also wanted to photograph the raptors you have seen in my most recent posts.

The Fall River Valley is located in the southern Cascade Mountains between Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen and includes acres of pasture and agricultural land that abounds with wildlife, including many species of birds. We counted 127 species in our count circle, the Loggerhead Shrike being one of those species.

This is the range map of the Loggerhead Shrike.

Traveling Rat Farm Road to its end there is a parking area and a small boat launch area with access to Big Lake and Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park. It was there that I finally got a chance to photograph a Loggerhead Shrike, one of my nemesis photographic species. Click photos for full sized images of the Loggerhead Shrike.

The Loggerhead Shrike is the only one of the world’s thirty species of true shrikes that occurs exclusively in North America1. I believe they are year round residents here.

Sometimes known as the “butcherbird,” it is a small avian predator that hunts from perches and impales its prey on sharp objects such as thorns and barbed-wire fences.

This beauty was sitting atop a sign as I drove into the parking lot at the end of the road, seemingly waiting for a photo op.

According to Birds of North America Online, “Although such predatory behavior mimics that of some raptors, impaling behavior represents a unique adaptation to the problem of eating large prey without benefit of the stronger feet and talons of raptors. In addition, the hooked bill, flanked by horny tomial projections and functionally similar to the notched upper bill of falcons, further sets shrikes apart as distinctive in the order Passeriformes. Being both passerines and top-level predators, these birds occupy a unique position in the food chain.”

Unfortunately, despite its wide distribution, the Loggerhead Shrike is one of the few North American passerines whose populations have declined continentwide in recent decades. My Peterson Field Guide lists it as “uncommon to rare.” I don’t see it very often but I do know a couple of places where it can sometimes be found. Now, thanks to this bird, I can search for another nemesis bird and I have found another possible place this interesting species can be seen.

Please visit World Bird Wednesday and post some of your own bird photos. It’s lots of fun to see what species other people are seeing around the world!

References: 1Birds of North America Online

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

texwisgirl January 31, 2012 at 7:56 am

really beautiful birds with their dramatic eye-shade. 🙂


Boom & Gary January 31, 2012 at 8:01 am

Great captures!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.


Modesto Viegas (Portugal) January 31, 2012 at 8:01 am

Nice bird. Good capture!!!


heyBJK January 31, 2012 at 9:09 am

Great shots of the Shrike! Nicely done!


Andrew January 31, 2012 at 11:54 am

A wonderful bird to see… your images are stunning.


Mick January 31, 2012 at 1:22 pm

It’s always good to get photos of a bird that has eluded your camera for some time. Great photos!


Mia McPherson January 31, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Congrats on getting your nemesis bird images Larry! I adore these Shrikes, they are spunky, ferocious and great fun to photograph. Lovely photos


Julie G. January 31, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Wonderful post filled with fantastic photographs and interesting information about the Loggerhead Shrike.


Wanda January 31, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Quite a nasty reputation for such an innocent looking bird! Great photos as always.


Eileen January 31, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Cool sighting of the shrike, they are great birds. I wish I saw them around here. Wonderful post and photos.


Pat January 31, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Wonderful captures! I love his black mask!


Stewart M - Australia February 1, 2012 at 1:32 am

Hi there – hope I don’t make you jealous – we have butcher birds in our garden! I only mention this because I am jealous that you saw such a splendid bird!!

Cheers SM


Liz February 1, 2012 at 8:25 am

Love these shots of the Shrike, Larry! What beautiful clear images. Well captured. I love the diversity of birds on this link up.


joo February 1, 2012 at 11:28 am

These little Shrikes are so lovely, and your images are superb!


Arija February 1, 2012 at 6:52 pm

A great looker and I guess not all birds can be sweet and gentle and good looking as well.


springman February 1, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Great post Larry! These are superb pictures of a very interesting passerine. Impaling it’s victims? Yeah, that goes beyond interesting. How cool that you now have such great photos in your personal archive. The detail is awesome!
Thanks also for the info on the Snowy owl, this “irruption” is more complicated than it seems. Why did the lemming population explode? Will these new arrivals stake out fresh wintering territories and expand their horizons?
Cheers to you Sir!


ramblingwoods February 2, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Impales…Hmmm..that is really interesting. It makes me think of kingfisher smacking its prey on a tree branch..but more complicated..Glad you were able to capture one…I see how excited people get on my local list to go and see an unusual bird for them….


OneJackdaw February 3, 2012 at 11:17 am

Congrats, Larry! Beautiful shot! I wonder whether the faint barring on its chest suggests this may be a juvenile?


Carletta February 3, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Larry these are wonderful closeup shots!
With its ‘uncommon to rare’ status this may be the only one I ever see. Thank you.


Ken Schneider February 6, 2012 at 7:35 am

Very nice views of the shrikes!


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