Loggerhead Shrikes (Lanius ludovicianus) are fairly common in the Agua Fria River Basin, but the one shown here is the first one I have photographed. This fellow was quite curious about me, and while I stood talking to him, fluttered to within about ten feet, then perched nearby while I tried for a good camera angle.
Male and female shrikes share the same white, gray, and black plumage, and both parents feed their young. This big-headed little bird hunts insects and small lizards, mammals, and birds from fences, trees, and shrubs. Shrikes have strong beaks but relatively weak talons. When they make a catch they carry their prey to a thorny tree or shrub, impale it, and tear it asunder with their powerful beaks. If prey is plentiful, some will be left impaled for later use. These ‘left overs’ are perhaps used to mark territory and attract females.
Loggerhead Shrikes have declined throughout the United States, especially in the Midwest and Northeast. Breeding bird surveyors (Corman and Wise-Gervais 2005) found the bird nesting throughout Arizona, but according to Sauer et al. (1995), there has been a measurable decline. Roads, pesticides, and other threats are discussed by Julie Craves (2007). Shrikes prefer open woodland and shrubland with abundant perches and thorny plants. As these habitat types fade away due to the spread of invasive weeds and the increase in wildfires, shrikes will become scarce. But until the chaparral is burnt out and the megapolitans arrive with their bulldozers, you can see these unusual little birds just about anywhere in the upper Agua Fria River Basin.
References (Look for additional references in the earlier post on Arizona Birds)
Corman, T.E., and C. Wise-Gervais. 2005. Arizona breeding bird atlas. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM. 636 p.
Craves, J. 2007. Species profile: Masked predator, Loggerhead Shrike. Birdwatching. August 22, 2007. Online in the bird profiles section at: http://www.birdwatchingdaily.com. (On the BirdWatchingDaily website go to ‘getting started–bird profiles–August 2007 edition.)
Sauer, J.R., S. Orsillo, and B.G. Peterjohn. 1995. Geographic patterns and population trends of breeding and wintering Loggerhead Shrikes in North America. Proceedings of the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology 6: 128-141.