A loggerhead shrike adult scores a perfect stick for its nest. Photo by P. Rathner.

It’s feeling more and more like spring these days, and the loggerhead shrike pairs in our conservation breeding program seem to think so too! We’re very excited to report that several pairs have started building their nests and some are even sitting on eggs!

Nest building is an art, and one that takes practice and patience. Before pairs are introduced, males will sometimes try to impress females with their fancy nest building skills, most of which are quite underwhelming. This young male at Toronto Zoo thought his feed dish might be a good location for an eventual nest. Bless his heart!

Photo by J. Spero.

Once pairs are introduced and begin nest building together they must first decide on a location in their shared enclosure. Eastern loggerhead shrikes prefer to build their nests in dense shrubs like hawthorn or red cedar in the wild, so to mimic this keepers at our partner facilities will create areas with dense foliage in each enclosure and will usually provide nest cups to give pairs a good base on which to build their nests. Younger pairs will sometimes build partial nests in several spots before committing fully to one location.

Breeding enclosure nest cups.

Once a pair decides on a location, they must then choose materials for their nest. Keepers will provide a wide variety of nesting material for pairs to choose from, including Spanish moss, coconut husk, straw, branches, dried grass, and animal fur (cut short).

An adult shrike with a mouthful of nesting material. Photo by P. Rathner.

Nest building typically takes 2-3 days, with the last step typically involving lining the nest with animal hair. Egg laying begins soon afterward, with 4-6 eggs laid on average in a clutch. If a pair double broods– or lays another clutch after raising their first– they will either reuse their first nest or build one in a different location. Incubating takes around 16 days before eggs begin to hatch.

It won’t be long now until we see hatchlings keeping cozy in their little homes, built especially for them!

A couple of hatchlings enjoying their comfy nest! Photo by P. Rathner.

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.