In case you missed our story on Instagram last week, the Loggerhead Shrike team was out in full force last Wednesday to follow up on a report of a returning loggerhead shrike! Eastern loggerhead shrikes are among the first migratory songbirds to return to their breeding grounds in the early spring, so the team was not surprised when they received a report that a shrike had been spotted in the Carden alvar.

Eastern Loggerhead Shrike Recovery Program Lead Biologist Hazel Wheeler surveying the Carden landscape. This is Wheeler’s ninth season looking for shrike and we know she is outstanding in her field! 

The team came prepared with all the necessary field gear, which included binoculars, a scope, a GPS unit, a notebook to record times and observations­, and (very essential for this muddy time of year) rubber boots!

Lead Biologist Hazel Wheeler enjoying the squelch of the season.

After three hours of surveying the patch where the shrike was reported, the team did manage to spot a shrike, but found it a little difficult to determine with confidence whether or not it was a loggerhead or a northern shrike.

In the very early spring season northern shrikes may still occupy loggerhead shrike breeding habitats, which can make it difficult when undertaking early spring surveys to confirm shrike sightings. If a shrike is spotted in alvar habitat in early spring, field teams will look for small clues that might indicate whether the bird they’re observing is a loggerhead or a northern Shrike.

Loggerhead shrikes in spring: 

  • Thick black mask (especially thick between eye and bill)
  • Very little white above mask
  • Clean white throat
  • White breast
  • Head and back slate grey

Northern shrikes in spring: 

  • Thinner eye mask
  • More white above eye mask
  • Barring on chest
  • Relatively large beak
  • Lighter grey head and back

The team managed to snap a couple pictures of their sighting through the scope. Which species do you think it is?

With migratory season in full swing, loggerhead shrikes are due back in eastern Canada any time now! If you see a shrike, we’d love to know about it. Send your sightings to birds@wildlifepreservation.ca!

Jane Spero

Conservation Breeding Coordinator – Eastern Loggerhead Shrike Program

Jane holds a Master’s degree in Animal Biosciences from the University of Guelph, where she studied building collision injuries in migratory songbird species. Jane worked as a rehabilitation supervisor, where she was responsible for the care, treatment, and reintroduction of injured and orphaned wildlife, including many species at risk.