Loggerhead shrike
Lanius ludovicianus
ITIS Species Code:   178515         NatureServ Element Code:   ABPBR01030
NatureServe Global Rank: 
NatureServe State (NC) Rank: 
Federal Status: 
NC State Status: 
Southern Blue Ridge:  17 Southern Piedmont:  18 South Atl. Coastal Plain:  20
Land Unit

US Fish & Wildlife Service
US Forest Service
US National Park Service
US Department of Defense
NC State Parks
NC University System
NC Wildlife Res. Com.
NC Forest Service
NC Div. of Coastal Mgmt.
Local Governments
Non-Governmental Org.
Other Public Lands
Private Lands

GAP Status 1-2
All Protected Lands




% of Dist. on
Prot. Lands

1.3 %
5.8 %
55.2 %
< 0.1 %
3.4 %
3.9 %
20.8 %
4.1 %
< 0.1 %
2.3 %
2.3 %
2.4 %
0.0 %

11.2 %
% of Dist. on
All Lands

< 0.1 %
0.2 %
1.5 %
< 0.1 %
< 0.1 %
0.1 %
0.6 %
0.1 %
< 0.1 %
< 0.1 %
< 0.1 %
< 0.1 %
97.2 %

0.3 %
Found primarily in the piedmont and the coastal plain (Potter et al. 1980); rare in the mountains (Simpson 1992) and absent from the barrier islands (Fussell and Lyons 1990).

Breeds in any type of open country from large clearings in wooded areas to open grasslands (Kaufman 1996), so long as it contains scattered perches such as trees, telephone wires, or fences (Potter et al. 1980).

Nest is placed in the dense cover of a tree or shrub, 5 to 30 feet above the ground (Harrison 1975). Impales prey on thorns or barbed wire fences (Nicholson 1997).


BREEDING: Open country with scattered trees and shrubs, savanna, desert scrub (southwestern U.S.), and, occasionally, open woodland; often perches on poles, wires or fenceposts (Tropical to Temperate zones) (AOU 1983). Suitable hunting perches are an important part of the habitat (Yosef and Grubb 1994).

For nesting, prefers shortgrass pastures in western Canada, Texas (Telfer 1992), and many other areas (Luukkonen 1987, Novak 1989, Gawlik and Bildstein 1990, Bartgis 1992). In Missouri, pasture land surrounded 67% of 60 nests (Kridelbaugh 1982). In New York, occupied nest sites were in pasture areas with less than 20% woody cover (Novak 1989). However, others have found no preference for short-grass areas (e.g., see Chavez-Ramirez et al. 1994). Historically, orchards seemingly were used with some frequency (see Novak 1989). In the upper Midwest, Brooks (1988) found that nestling growth rate, nesting success, and fledgling success were positively correlated with percentage of home range coverage in grassland. In Virginia, pairs nesting in active pastures produced twice as many young as did those in other habitats (Luukkonen 1987).

Nests in shrubs or small trees (deciduous or coniferous, e.g., in eastern North America, JUNIPERUS VIRGINIANA, CRATAEGUS sp., MACLURA POMIFERA, ROSA MULTIFLORA). In northern latitudes, nest sites include spruce and fir trees (Bent 1950, Brooks 1988). In some areas, vine-covered plants are preferred (Luukkonen 1987, Novak 1989). In Missouri, nests in multiflora rose were less successful than were those in trees, perhaps because the nests in roses were lower and poorly supported (Kridelbaugh 1982). In South Carolina, nests in JUNIPERUS fledged a larger number of young than did nests in other sites (5.0 young per successful nest vs. 4.0) (Gawlik and Bildstein 1990). Nests generally are 1.5-3 m above ground, in a crotch or on top of an old nest. In New York, nests were typically 1.5-2.5 m high in trees 4-5 m tall, and usually they were more than a meter back from the outside of the tree (Novak 1989). In Virginia, average nest height was 2.6 m in trees averaging 6.8 m tall; nest height was higher (mean 5.5 m) in second and third nesting attempts (Luukkonen 1987). Nests often in isolated woody plants but also commonly along fencelines or hedgerows (Brooks 1988, Luukkonen 1987), in an open area in a wooded area or in open country. Tends to nest in areas with several potential suitable nesting trees/shrubs (Brooks 1988).

Sometimes nests in the same site in successive years, but return rates generally are low; males are most likely to reoccupy previous breeding territories (Kridelbaugh 1982, Luukkonen 1987, Brooks 1988, Bartgis 1989, Haas and Sloane 1989). In Minnesota and Virginia, respectively, 50% and 30% of breeding territories were not occupied the following year; in Virginia, reoccupation was more frequent in active pasture than in pastures allowed to grow tall (Brooks 1988, Luukonen 1987). Causes of variation in rates of territory reoccupancy have been discussed but available evidence is inconclusive and may differ in different areas (cf. Brooks 1988, Luukkonen 1987, Novak 1989, Haas and Sloane 1989). For a particular pair during a single season, nesting attempts after the first one generally are close to the first site (mean 90 m in Virginia) (Luukkonen 1987). Both sexes are involved in nest site selection and nest construction (Kridelbaugh 1982).

NON-BREEDING: During periods of cold with snow cover, sometimes moves into woodlots (Byrd and Johnston 1991). In winter in Virginia, many move from pastures to shrub and open forest habitats during periods of cold, wet weather (Blumton et al. 1989).


Open areas, frequently upland xeric grasslands where hedgerows and dense shrubs serve as borders. Open deciduous woodlots adjacent to fields appear to be desirable as nest and roost sites. Hedgerows in pasture and agricultural fields, with Red-cedar is especially attractive. Barbed-wire fences and thorn-bearing trees provide places for impaling prey. Hedgerows also provide habitat for prey.


Nests in shrub or small tree (deciduous or coniferous), usually about 1.5-3 m above ground, often along fenceline, in open area in forest or in open country.

Occupied Landcover Map Units:
Code NameDescription NC Natural Heritage Program Equivalent
97 Mesic Longleaf Pine Longleaf pine woodlands without a major scrub oak component. Slash or loblolly pines may be present as well. Mesic Pine Flatwoods
42 Xeric Longleaf Pine Sandhills including a range of longleaf pine density from predominantly wiregrass, scrub oak dominated to true longleaf pine woodland. This does not include mesic or saturated flatwood types. Xeric Sandhill Scrub, Pine/Scrub Oak Sandhill, Coastal Fringe Sandhill
226 Piedmont Xeric Woodlands Generally post and blackjack oak dominated woodlands. White ash and pignut hickory can be found in combination with Eastern red cedar on glades. Xeric Hardpan Forest
20 Coniferous Regeneration Regenerating pine stands. Predominantly loblolly pine, but slash and longleaf stands occur as well. No equivalent
36 Successional Deciduous Forests Regenerating deciduous trees with a shrub stature. Commonly dominated by sweetgum, tulip poplars and maples. No equivalent
180 Agricultural Crop Fields Farm fields used for row crops. No equivalent
205 Agricultural Pasture/Hay and Natural Herbaceous Farm fields used for pasture grass or hay production, as well as old fields dominated by native and exotic grasses. No equivalent
202 Residential Urban Includes vegetation interspersed in residential areas. Includes lawns, mixed species woodlots, and horticultural shrubs. Vegetation accounts for between 20 - 70% of the cover. No equivalent
View Entire Landcover Legend
Additional Spatial Constraints:
Exclude all area outside of known range.
Exclude the outerbanks.
Limited to elevation range: less than 2000 ft.
Fish and Wildlife Service. 1980. Selected vertebrate endan- gered species of the seacoast of the U.S. - Moro Bay Kanga- roo rat. FWS/OBS-80/01.19.

Scott, T. A., and M. L. Morrison. 1990. Natural history and management of the San Clemente loggerhead shrike. Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology, Proceedings 4:23-57.

Tyler, J.D. 1992. Nesting ecology of the loggerhead shrike in southwestern Oklahoma. Wilson Bulletin 104:95-104.

Yosef, R. 1994. Evaluation of the global decline in the true shrikes (family Laniidae). Auk 111:228-233.

Yosef, R., and T.C. Grubb, Jr. 1994. Resource dependence and territory size in loggerhead shrikes (LANIUS LUDOVICIANUS). Auk 111:465-469.

Carter, M., G. Fenwick, C. Hunter, D. Pashley, D. Petit, J. Price, and J. Trapp. 1996. Watchlist 1996:For the future. Field Notes 50(3):238-240.

Miller, A. H. 1931. Systematic revision and natural history of the American shrikes (LANIUS). Univ. California Publ. Zool. 38:11-242.

Bent, A.C. 1950. Life histories of North American wagtails, shrikes, vireos, and their allies. U.S. Natl. Mus. Bull. 197. Washington, D.C.

Ehrlich, P.R., D.S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1992. Birds in jeopardy:the imperiled and extinct birds of the United States and Canada, including Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California. 259 pp.

Simpson MB Jr. 1992. Birds of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press.

Milburn, T. 1981. Status and distribution of the loggerhead shrike, LANIUS LUDOVICIANUS, in the northeastern U.S. Unpublished report submitted to the USDI/FWS Office of Endangered Species. 77 pp.

Kridelbaugh, A. L. 1982. An ecological study of loggerhead shrikes in central Missouri. Master's thesis, Univ. Missouri, Columbia.

Luukkonen, D. R. 1987. Loggerhead shrike status and breeding ecology in Virginia. Master's thesis, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Sate University, Blacksburg.

Brooks, B. L. 1988. The breeding distribution, population dynamics, and habitat availability of an upper Midwest loggerhead shrike population. Master's thesis, Univ. Wisconsin, Madison.

Bartgis, R. L. 1989. Site surveys for rare plants and animals in eastern West Virginia. Unpubl. report, The Nature Conservancy, Boston, Massachusetts.

Blumton, A. K., J. D. Fraser, and K. Terwilliger. 1989. Loggerhead shrike survey and census. Pages 116-118 in Virginia nongame and endangered wildlife investigative annual report, July 1, 1988 through June 30, 1989. Virginia Department of Game and Inland

Hands, H. M., R. D. Drobney, and M. R. Ryan. 1989. Status of the loggerhead shrike in the northcentral United States. Missouri Coop. Fish Wildl. Res. Unit Rep. 15 pp.

Hershberger, W. 1989. Loggerhead shrike (LANIUS LUDOVICIANUS) survey:spring 1989 for the Washington and Frederick counties of Maryland. Unpubl. report, Maryland Natural Heritage Program, Annapolis, Maryland.

Novak, P. 1989. Breeding ecology and status of loggerhead shrike (LANIUS LUDOVICIANUS) in New York. Master's thesis, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, New York.

Telfer, E. S. 1992. Habitat change as a factor in the decline of the western Canadian loggerhead shrike, LANIUS LUDOVICIANUS, population. Can. Field-Nat. 106:321-326.

Yosef, R., and T.C. Grubb, Jr. 1992. Territory size influences nutritional condition in nonbreeding loggerhead shrikes (LANIUS LUDOVICIANUS):a ptilochronology approach. Conservation Biology 6:447-449.

Applegate, R. D. 1977. Possible ecological role of food caches of loggerhead shrike. Auk 94:391-392.

Cadman, M.D. 1991. Status report on the loggerhead shrike (eastern population) LANIUS LUDOVICIANUS. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. 19 pp.

Nicholson CP. 1997. Atlas of the breeding birds of Tennessee. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.

Haas, C. A., and S. A. Sloane. 1989. Low return rates of migratory Loggerhead Shrikes:winter mortality or low site fidelity? Wilson Bulletin 101(3):458-60.

Chavez-Ramirez, F., D.E. Gawlik, F.G. Prieto, and R.D. Slack. 1994. Effects of habitat structure on patch use by Loggerhead Shrikes wintering in a natural grassland. Condor 96:228-231.

Telfer, E. S., et al. 1989. Status and distribution of the loggerhead shrike in western Canada. Can. Wildl. Serv. Prog. Notes 184. 4 pp.

Brooks, B. L., and S. A. Temple. 1990. Habitat availability and suitability for loggerhead shrikes in the upper Midwest. Am. Midl. Nat. 123:75-83.

Brooks, B. L., and S. A. Temple. 1990. Dynamics of a loggerhead shrike population in Minnesota. Wilson Bull. 102:441-450.

Bureau of Land Management. Life History Summaries.

Gawlik, D. E., and K. L. Bildstein. 1990. Reproductive success and nesting habitat of loggerhead shrikes in north-central South Carolina. Wilson Bull. 102:37-48.

Fruth, K. J. 1988. The Wisconsin Loggerhead Shrike Recovery Plan. Wisconsin Endangered Resources Report 38. Bureau of Endangered Resources, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, Wisconsin.

Harrison, H.H. 1975. A field guide to bird's nests in the U.S. east of the Mississippi River. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. 257 p.

Harrison, C. 1978. A field guide to the nests, eggs and nestlings of North American birds. Collins, Cleveland, Ohio.

Potter, E. F., J. F. Parnell, and R. P. Teulings. 1980. Birds of the Carolinas. Univ. North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill. 408 pp.

Terres, J.K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU), Committee on Classification and Nomenclature. 1983. Check-list of North American Birds. Sixth Edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas.

National Geographic Society (NGS). 1983. Field guide to the birds of North America. National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C.

Fraser, J. D., and D. R. Luukkonen. 1986. The loggerhead shrike. Pages 933-941 in R. L. DiSilvestro, editor. Audubon Wildlife Report 1986. Academic Press, New York.

U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Migratory Bird Management. 1987. Migratory nongame birds of management concern in the United States:the 1987 list.

Ehrlich, P.R., D.S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder's handbook:a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Shuster, Inc., New York. xxx + 785 pp.

Byrd, M.A., and D.W. Johnston. 1991. Birds. Pages 477-537 in K. Terwilliger, coordinator. Virginia's endangered species:proceedings of a symposium. McDonald and Woodward Publ. Co., Blacksburg, Virginia.

Droege, S., and J.R. Sauer. 1990. North American Breeding Bird Survey, annual summary, 1989. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Report 90(8). 22 pp.

Matthews, J. R., and C. J. Moseley (editors). 1990. The Official World Wildlife Fund Guide to Endangered Species of North America. Volume 1. Plants, Mammals. xxiii + pp 1-560 + 33 pp. appendix + 6 pp. glossary + 16 pp. index. Volume 2. Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians.

Cade, T. J. 1992. Hand-reared loggerhead shrikes breed in captivity. Condor 94:1027-1029.

Bartgis, R. 1992. Loggerhead shrike, LANIUS LUDOVICIANUS. Pages 281-297 in K. J. Schneider and D. M. Pence, editors. Migratory nongame birds of management concern in the Northeast. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Newton Corner, Massachusetts. 400 pp.

10 March 2005
This data was compiled and/or developed by the North Carolina GAP Analysis Project.

For more information please contact them at:
NC-GAP Analysis Project
Dept. of Zoology, NCSU
Campus Box 7617
Raleigh, NC 27695-7617
(919) 513-2853