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Loggerhead shrike kenschneider.jpg

The only member of the Laniidae family (true shrikes) to occur exclusively in North America, the loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) is unusual among songbirds for its predatory behaviour. Like other Lanius shrikes, it has a stout, hooked bill for killing prey, and is known for its habit of impaling its victims on sharp objects. This behaviour has earned Lanius species the name of “butcher birds”. The loggerhead shrike is a medium-sized shrike species, named for its proportionately large head. Both the male and female have a grey back, forehead and crown, a distinctive black mask across the face, and a whitish throat and underparts, which are sometimes tinged grey. Some individuals show faint dark barring on the chest. The wings are black, with a conspicuous white patch and with white edges to the scapulars (shoulder feathers) which form a white “V” across the back. The loggerhead shrike’s tail is of medium length and is black with white outer feathers. The legs, feet and hooked bill are also black. Although similar in appearance to the male, the female loggerhead shrike is smaller and often has faint markings on the breast, slightly browner rather than bluish-grey upperparts, and a less extensive face mask. The juvenile resembles the adult, but is a paler brownish-grey, with fine barring above and below, a browner face mask, a buffy bar on the wing and a pale base to the lower beak. The loggerhead shrike varies in size and appearance across its range. Around 7 to 11 different subspecieshave been described, but these overlap somewhat. The adult loggerhead shrike can be distinguished from the only other shrike in its range, the great grey shrike or northern shrike (Lanius excubitor), by its smaller size, shorter bill, larger face mask and less extensive barring on the chest. The song of the loggerhead shrike consists of short trills or combinations of clear, almost metallic notes, and it also gives a great variety of harsh calls.

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