Species At Risk

Loggerhead Shrike

(Lanius ludovicianus)


Loggerhead Shrike
Loggerhead Shrike occurrences map


The Loggerhead Shrike is a striking, robin-sized bird. It has an all black bill that is hooked at the tip, a medium-grey crown and back, and a raccoon-like black face mask. The throat and breast are white, the tail is black with prominent white outer feathers, and the wings are black with a bold white patch that flashes when the bird is in flight.

Action we are taking:


The Loggerhead Shrike currently breeds in central and western North America. Until the 1970s, the Loggerhead Shrike could be found at many locations throughout southern Ontario and other parts of northeastern North America, but it has declined dramatically. Although the occasional bird is still found within the broader former range, most remaining Loggerhead Shrikes are now found in two core grassland habitats - the Carden Plain north of Lindsay, and the Napanee Limestone Plain. Every fall these birds migrate to the southern United States for the winter.


In Ontario, the Loggerhead Shrike prefers pasture or other grasslands with scattered low trees and shrubs. It lives in fields or alvars (areas of exposed bedrock) with short grass, which makes it easier to spot prey. It builds its nest in small trees or shrubs and hunts by waiting patiently in tree branches until it swoops down and attacks its unsuspecting prey – usually large insects, such as grasshoppers. Loggerhead Shrikes also require spiny, multi-branched shrubs where they can impale prey before eating it. Barbed wired fencing can also be used for this.


Threats to the Loggerhead Shrike may include habitat loss resulting from development (conversion of grasslands and pastures to cropland, residential development etc.) and succession (when open fields gradually change into thickets and forests). They may also be impacted by accumulation of toxins from the prey they eat and a reduction in prey availability because of increased use of pesticides. Since Loggerhead Shrikes often hunt from low perches along roads, they are susceptible to being killed by cars.


The Loggerhead Shrike and its habitat are protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act.

For more information on legislation that helps protect Ontario's species at risk visit ontario.ca/speciesatrisk.

What You Can Do to Help the Loggerhead Shrike

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Loggerhead Shrike. You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful. nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Bird Studies Canada is working to advance the understanding, appreciation and conservation of wild birds and their habitat in Ontario and elsewhere. For more information on how you can help, visit: www.bsc-eoc.org.
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. If you find Loggerhead Shrike on your property, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats. For more information, visit: ontario.ca/speciesatrisk.
  • As with all wildlife, don’t disturb nests, young or adults. Be respectful and observe from a distance
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.
  • There is a new program geared to eligible farms registered under the Canada-Ontario Environmental Farm Plan to encourage greater protection and conservation of habitat for species at risk. For more information, visit www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/environment/efp/efp.htm.

Did you know?

A survey completed in 1992 found 52 breeding pairs in the province. In 2006 this number dropped to just 18 pairs; however, 2009 saw a notable increase with 31 pairs confirmed in Ontario.

Did you know?

Due to the serious drop in the Loggerhead Shrike population, a captive-breeding program was launched in Ontario and Quebec. Wild populations may be increased by releasing birds bred in captivity. Between 2001 and 2009, 18 released captive-bred birds have returned to Ontario.

Did you know?

Shrikes are sometimes called "butcher bird" because of their unusual habit of impaling their prey on thorns, barbed wire or sharp twigs. They do this because, while they have the strong hooked beak of a predator, their feet are weak and they cannot hold their prey and tear it into pieces at the same time.

Did you know?

In Ontario, the principal diet of Loggerhead Shrikes consists of insects, especially grasshoppers, but they have also been known to catch small birds, mammals and even frogs on occasion.

Did you know?

Loggerhead Shrikes are only present in Ontario from April until September, and then they migrate to the southern US for winter.

Did you know?

Loggerhead Shrikes are very protective parents. Once the eggs hatch, the parents are both kept busy bringing food to their young and will very aggressively defend their nest!

The Endangered Species Act

Contact your local ministry office

Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.