Loggerhead Shrike  (Pie-grièche migratrice  )      This species is on the OBRC review list for northern Ontario.  All sightings should be documented and reported.

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Lanius ludovicianus                                                           .

General Notes

The Loggerhead Shrike is the most critically endangered of Ontario's migratory songbirds. In 2007 there were only 24 nesting pairs in the province; in 1992, there were 55.  Ontario has always been, since the species first started to occur here, on the fringe of the range for this species, and it was never common here.  It's presence in Timiskaming is as an accidental, and Timiskaming was never considered part of the normal range of this species in Ontario, even when it was at the peak of its abundance in Ontario in the 1940's. It is in decline throughout the continent, and its outlook in Ontario, here on the edge of its range, is likely extirpation.  It is not likely to be found in Timiskaming again.

According to the 1987 Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas, "the species was not originally a resident of northeastern North America, but expanded its range north and east with the clearing of forests for settlement and agriculture. It was first reported in Ontario in 1860 near Hamilton. The eastward range expansion continued until early in the 20th century, by which time the species had also reached Quebec and the Maritime Provinces. At the turn of the century, it was common along the St. Lawrence River in eastern Ontario and in Muskoka, had extended to the Bruce Peninsula, and had been reported near Ottawa. The northward extension of the range apparently continued into the 1940's, by which time the species had been reported near Lake Nipissing, Sault Ste Marie, Thunder Bay, and the Rainy River area.

"Generally, since the 1940's the range of the Loggerhead Shrike has gradually contracted in eastern Canada and across the northeastern US. The species probably no longer breeds in the Maritime Provinces, is a rare breeder in Quebec, and, as shown by BBS data, has declined significantly in Ontario. As of 1986, it was rare in southwestern Ontario and seldom reported near Sault Ste Marie, Thunder Bay, or Lake of the Woods. It is listed as threatened or endangered in most of the northeastern states, and is showing signs of decrease in almost all parts of its range."

An Ontario captive breeding and release program has had some limited success, with 97 juvenile shrikes released in 2007, 111 in 2006, and 64 in 2005, all in southern Ontario. However, the number of nesting pairs returning in the spring was the same in 2007 as it had been five years earlier, so the best that can be said for the program is that it may have stalled the decline.  The Canadian Wildlife Service has decided not to continue funding the captive breeding program in 2008.

One reason for the decline of shrikes is changing land use. They need grasslands that are cropped short, usually by cattle, so they can catch insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, and beetles. They also feed on mice and small birds, such as young sparrows.  In addition, they need thorn trees, such as hawthorns, or barbed wire fences, so they can impale their prey. Impaling creates a kind of a larder to which a shrike can return when pickings are slim, and possibly allows time for the toxins in some poisonous insects like Monarch butterflies to deteriorate. It also holds larger prey in place for dissecting into bite-sized chunks that can be fed to young shrikes.

Many people feel that automobiles are also a significant cause of the decline of this species because of the species' habit of hunting near roadsides.. Many birds, especially fledglings, are killed by cars, especially on their wintering  grounds in the southern U.S. where they like to fly low across roads to prey on insects that are attracted to the warm pavement.

For a useful discussion of the finer points of identifying Loggerhead Shrikes, see the article on the Ontario Field Ornithologists website, click HERE.  For additional information on the status of the Loggerhead Shrike in Ontario, and ongoing recovery efforts, visit http://www.bsc-eoc.org/losh.html at the Bird Studies Canada website.


Out of range

 Breeding Status:

Accidental, though previously considered Breeding. See 1959 record below.

Documented Observations


May 24, 1959. One observed with fledged young in Charlton by Fred Helleiner. (No OBRC report).
June 16, 1963. One observed in Robillard Township. Observation details on file with the Natural Heritage Information Centre in Peterborough.
April 17, 2002. One observed by Paul and Gertrude Trudel in Gowganda. Accepted OBRC record on file.