Photo  above: Loggerhead shrike banded as a conservation bred bird with light blue over silver metal band on left leg and orange over orange band on the right leg, resighted after three years.

Loggerhead shrikes are songbirds with specific tastes. These birds are quite particular about where they choose to live and tend to be seen hunting the short grasses and broken trees of pastures maintained by grazing cattle that were once abundant throughout southern Ontario. As this habitat has become scarce and scattered within the province, the shrike sightings have also grown thin. Wildlife Preservation Canada is working to save the loggerhead shrike through our conservation recovery program. Colour bands are an important tool to help better understand the struggles facing these populations and to inform strategies to help reverse this declining trend.

To monitor the fragile populations and understand how these birds are fairing in eastern Canada,conservation bred and wild shrikes are given a unique combination of colour leg bands by WPC’s team. This unique color combination allows individuals to be identified from a distance as they go about their lives, whether that be stopping to rest during migration, hunting, defending a territory, building a nest, or attending to young. These lightweight accessories do not interfere with the birds’ daily activities but provide a wealth of knowledge to those hoping to understand them.

It can be quite a challenge get into a position where these subtle colours affixed an active bird are in any meaningful way interpretable, with many obscured sight windows, blown opportunities, birds just out of range, and tasty distractions like grasshoppers abound. However, it’s all worth the frustration and immensely rewarding when it all finally lines up. In addition to a rewarding challenge, encountering a banded bird can be a thought-provoking exercise. To think of where a bird may have been and what it has seen is wondrous.  The shrike in the photo above was banded as a fledgling in WPC’s conservation breeding program, and released in the Napanee Limestone Plain and and returned to a nearby pasture three years later to raise a family.

          The sightings of banded shrikes from our conservation breeding program is proof that our shrikes are migrating, surviving and thriving, and returning to mate and breed, to build the population!

Band sightings are an invaluable tool in the recovery of eastern loggerhead shrikes and the public is encouraged to participate to in the conservation of this species. If you spot a shrike with coloured bands please report the sighting to!

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