Bird of the Week

Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the loggerhead shrike.
The loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) is a robin-sized bird with a large head relative to its body size (hence the name loggerhead), gray back, whitish throat and chest, and black mask. They are known as voracious predators capable of harvesting prey almost equal to their size.
Their bills are particularly well adapted to capturing large insects or to severing the spinal cord of small vertebrates. They are also well-known for impaling their prey on thorns, sharp twigs or barbed wire for later consumption. Stashing prey in this way is an adaptation that allows caching food to survive periods of scarcity and that allows toxins in some insect prey to break down before the shrike finishes its meal. Recent fledglings exhibit interesting behaviors of attacking inanimate objects and impaling leaves or other objects on thorns, as if practicing the feeding strategies that they will perfect as adults.
Their favored habitat is open woodlands, shrublands and grasslands, where they are often spotted on fence posts or power lines. Loggerhead shrikes breed from central Colorado to southern portions of Canada, so they may be found in our area year-round or during their migration. A closely related species, the northern shrike, may be found in southern Colorado during the winter months.
Population numbers have declined sharply over the past several decades, in large part because of increased use of pesticides and habitat alteration, earning them threatened or endangered status in some areas. Their potential for recovery is strong if these threats to their survival are mitigated.
For information on local bird-watching events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.

This story was posted on February 23, 2020.