When the WPC Eastern Loggerhead Recovery team is monitoring for this endangered songbird, one of the worst things that can happen is finding one of the birds injured. An injury to a shrike that is tending to a nest could be detrimental to the success of their young. In a small population such as that of an endangered species, every successful breeding attempt counts! Luckily, a determined female shrike didn’t let such a situation get in her way.

In mid-May, I was monitoring a male loggerhead shrike that had been discovered earlier in the month and was believed to have a mate in their territory.  I watched as the shrike perched on a short shrub patiently waiting for its next prey to reveal itself. This behaviour is very common, as shrikes are sit-and-wait predators.

But what happened next was far from normal.

The shrike hopped down onto an insect that had come within striking distance and quickly had it in its bill -however, instead of flying to another perch to eat this insect or continue with the next hunt, the shrike made the ~10 metre trek to a nearby cedar tree in a series of short hops. After a short time in the cover of the tree, the shrike once again hopped along the ground and made its way to another short hunting perch.

This time, I had a clear line of sight, which revealed a heart-dropping image. The shrike was hanging its left wing.

A male loggerhead shrike hangs his wing, indicating an injury.

With further monitoring, it appeared that the shrike was able to hunt reasonably successfully using its hopping technique, but the threat of predation was clear as it was no longer able to fly.

WPC’s shrike team decided they had to try and get this shrike some help, or it would likely not make it. I worked my way closer to assess the mobility of the bird, and quickly realized that a catch would be possible. I moved in, draped my sweater over the bird gently, and moved it into a box for transportation.

We brought into Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre, where it was X-rayed and found to have an injured clavicle.

I revisited the site often in the time after the injured bird was found in hopes that the female loggerhead shrike was still around and was able to carry on with the pair’s nesting attempt. Excitingly, the timing worked out that her eggs had already hatched, and the young were at an age where she was able to leave the nest and forage for them and herself on her own. She had a lot of hungry mouths to feed and was quite busy for the last half of May.

Fortunately, her work paid off and she was able to raise four young shrikes who have since fledged.

The determination from this female earned her the nickname “Supermom” among the shrike team. Seeing her story play out was quite inspiring!

Two young loggerhead shrikes branching in their nest tree.

The male shrike underwent cage rest in the care of Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre and was since transferred to WPC’s partners at the Toronto Zoo for further evaluation. We remain hopeful that he will be able to rejoin his mate and offspring in the wild. If his injury proves too severe for a safe release, there is a silver lining as he will still be able to live out his days among fellow Loggerhead Shrikes at a captive breeding facility as a part of the Eastern Loggerhead Shrike Recovery Program.

Tyson Shank

Napanee Shrike Biologist

Tyson graduated with a Diploma in Conservation Biology from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and is working towards a certificate in Applied Digital Geography and GIS from Toronto Metropolitan University. His experience working with birds includes performing various types of surveys, monitoring nests, banding, and rehabilitation. In his spare time, Tyson enjoys getting outside by hiking, camping, kayaking, and birding recreationally.

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