Exciting news came this weekend of a colour-banded Loggerhead Shrike seen in Virginia. The spotter was diligent, taking pictures and a short video, that helped us to identify this bird as one that was hatched this year at Mountsberg Raptor Centre, and released at the Napanee release site at the end of August. This is the third time a bird bred and released in Ontario has been spotted in Virginia after fall migration.
The yellow bands stand out clearly, as does the stainless steel band on the left leg, but the light green band on the right leg could be confused with white or light blue, depending on how the light hits it. Luckily the video gave some good, close-up views to help us figure it out!
Did you know?
Most songbirds are banded with aluminum bands, which are light, but sturdy. However, shrikes have been known to destroy aluminum bands, so we have to use stainless steel to make sure the birds stay banded.
The importance of band sightings
The population of Loggerhead Shrikes in Ontario faces many threats, including habitat loss, road mortality, and nest predators, but the main causes of the shrinking population seem to be on the wintering grounds. To address the cause though, we first need to know exactly where our birds are going.
We’ve used high-tech tags, like geolocators and radio tags, to try to track the birds; as well as molecular techniques, looking at tell-tale location signatures left in feathers that are grown at different points over the birds’ lives. Colour-banding, though an older and less tech-savvy technique, still supplies meaningful results when sightings of our birds are reported back to us over the winter. Each piece gets us a little bit closer to understanding the full life-cycle of Ontario’s Loggerhead Shrikes, and finding solutions to protect and recover this unique, endangered bird.
Big thanks go out to Jean, our US shrike spotter, and our partners down in Virginia for bringing us this exciting news!