Birds – Loggerhead Shrike

(Lanius ludovicianus)

Length—8.5 to 9 inches. A little smaller than the robin.

Male and Female—Upper parts gray ; narrow black line across forehead, connecting small black patches on sides of head at base of bill. Wings and tail black, plentifully marked with white, the outer tail feathers often being entirely white and conspicuous in flight. Underneath white or very light gray. Bill hooked and hawk-like.

Range—Eastern United States to the plains.

Migrations—May. October. Summer resident.

It is not easy, even at a slight distance, to distinguish the loggerhead from the Northern shrike. Both have the pernicious habit of killing insects and smaller birds and impaling them on thorns; both have the peculiarity of flying, with strong, vigorous flight and much wing-flapping, close along the ground, then suddenly rising to a tree, on the lookout for prey. Their harsh, unmusical call-notes are similar too, and their hawk-like method of dropping suddenly upon a victim on the ground below is identical. Indeed, the same description very nearly answers for both birds. But there is one very important difference. While the Northern shrike is a winter visitor, the loggerhead, being his South-ern counterpart, does not arrive until after the frost is out of the ground, and he can be sure of a truly warm welcome. A lesser distinction between the only two representatives of the shrike family that frequent our neighborhood-and they are two too many—is in the smaller size of the loggerhead and its lighter-gray plumage. But as both these birds select some high, commanding position, like a distended branch near the tree-top, a cupola, house-peak, lightning-rod, telegraph wire, or weather-vane, the better to detect a passing dinner, it would be quite impossible at such a distance to know which shrike was sitting up there silently plotting villainies, without remembering the season when each may be expected.