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Songbirds of North Dakota


Shrikes

Family Laniidae


Shrikes belong to the family Laniidae which is taken from the Latin word lanius, meaning "butcher". There are two North American species which are part of 25 species of "true Shrikes", Being the only predatory songbird. They prey on vertebrate and invertebrate animals which they often impale on thorns or barbed wire. Except when nesting, shrikes are solitary birds of open places and can be seen perched in conspicuous places which provide a good view to watch for prey. Both members of this family are found in North Dakota. They are the loggerhead shrike, which can be seen during the spring and summer; and the northern shrike, which can be seen during winter.

Loggerhead Shrike
Lanius ludovicianus

JPG -- Picture and Range Map of Species

The loggerhead shrike can be seen throughout North Dakota during the spring and summer. It is 8-10 inches long with a wingspan of 12 inches, making it about the size of a robin. Its back is colored gray and the underparts are white. The wings are black with white patches and the forehead and face are black. The bill is slightly hooked at the tip, somewhat similar to a falcon's. The female and the male are similar in appearance. The loggerhead shrike prefers open country bordered with tree rows and thickets.

Its diet consists mainly of mice but a shrike will also eat insects, amphibians, and other small birds. Nests are cup-shaped and built in a tree 8-15 feet off the ground. Four to seven dull white to light gray eggs with spots are laid during the breeding season which lasts from April to July.


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