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Northern Shrike

Lanius excubitor

Length: 9 to 10 inches Wingspan: 14 to 16 inches Seasonality: Winter
ID Keys: Black mask reduced in front of eye, faint barring on underparts, grayish overall 

Northern Shrike - Lanius excubitorThe Northern Shrike is a winter-only resident of South Dakota, spending its summers in northern Canada and Alaska.  A predatory songbird, they will sometimes cache food for later by impaling their prey on a thorn or barbed wire.  They will sometimes attend feeders, both for suet and for the other birds feeding there.

Habitat: Prefers semi-open to open habitat when wintering in the state, as long as hunting perches are available.  In the summer, lives in shrubby areas or areas of very open woodland.

Diet: Feeds heavily on small birds, especially in the winter.  Also takes many mice and voles, other small rodents, large insects, and occasionally lizards and snakes.

Behavior: Feeds by observing from an open perch, and swooping out to capture prey when spotted.

Breeding: Non-breeder in South Dakota

Song: A mixture of musical notes and phrases, along with raspy shrieks.  Will also imitate other birds.

Migration: Summers through Alaska and the northern half of Canada.  Winters from coastal Alaska, southern Canada, and the northern 2/3rds of the United States.  Also found in Europe and Asia.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Northern Shrike sightings

Similar Species: Loggerhead Shrike

Feeders: Will attend feeders for suet, hamburger, and also the other birds you're feeding!!

Conservation Status: Generally stable throughout it's range, but of possible concern due to decline of other shrike species.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Northern Shrike

2) BirdWeb - Northern Shrike

3) Audubon Guide - Northern Shrike

Photo Information: December 2004 - Sax-Zim Bog in Minnesota - Terry Sohl


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Northern Shrike - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon winter visitor.

Additional Northern Shrike Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
Northern Shrike - Lanius excubitor
Northern Shrike - Lanius excubitorNorthern Shrike - Lanius excubitorNorthern Shrike - Lanius excubitorNorthern Shrike - Lanius excubitor