Greetings from Carden Ontario!

The captive care of endangered eastern loggerhead shrikes has begun and we are beginning the year’s second stage for the breeding and release recovery program for this songbird. Our juvenile birds arrived at our release aviaries here in Carden half way through July from the breeding and wintering facilities at Mountsberg and African Lion Safari. We have started our daily husbandry chores as we prepare these young birds for release to augment the disappearing wild population. Here’s a quick look at what our days look like.

We begin our day by walking to the feed shed and start prepping the food for the shrikes. We feed them a combination of crickets, mealworms, super meal worms, and mice (dead and alive). We feed them these items as it allows them to learn to hunt and build interest in a variety of food items (big and small). We walk down to the enclosures and place the food items in a large clear tote bin, change out any dirty/soiled dishes and replace them with clean ones. We provide them fresh water, and place a few mealworms on the release door shelf so they get used to the idea of food being there (this is important when we release them).

Display of food items being fed to the shrikes, tubs with mealworms/crickets and bowls with mice. Photo credit: Sam Shappas, Carden field assistant

After we’ve placed the food in the corrals, we leave the birds and walk to a spot near the enclosure with cover and begin our observation of the birds. We try to be as quick as possible while in the enclosure, shrikes are very flighty and nervous around people! We conduct an observation period to ensure that the birds are behaving normally and that they are taking the food. We document any abnormal behaviours or aggressive behaviours, and make sure that we have a count on all birds. Once we can confirm that the birds are behaving normally and showing interest in food, we pack up from our hiding spot and head back to the feed shed. We clean and sanitize all dirty dishes, and then begin the colony care. Colony care is important because if we want healthy birds, we need healthy prey. We ensure that all bins are cleaned regularly, and that every critter has appropriate food and water/moisture.

Once that’s done, we can continue with any other chores or monitoring that needs to be done and then we repeat for the afternoon feeding!

Mandy Shepherd (yours truly!) releasing a juvenile shrike into one of the enclosures

With the juvenile birds, we get the opportunity to band them so that we can identify them. Banding is always supervised by Hazel Wheeler, lead biologist, and is always a great learning opportunity. It seems that something new happens every time we band, and there’s always room to learn and get better. We just banded our first group of 14 birds, and in case you didn’t know… shrikes are feisty! Our fingers are no match to their sharp beaks, but we persisted and got all birds banded and inventoried. We got their weight, a variety of measurements (wing, tail, tarsus), and gave them some deworming medication. 3 of our birds got radio tags, we have to make sure that the birds are large enough to handle the weight of the tag. Our first juvenile birds will released at the end of the month, and our next group will be transferred shortly after.

Hazel Wheeler and Mandy Shepherd attaching a radio tag on one of the juvenile birds

I’m looking forward to the releases, the new birds, the new experiences and just enjoying the rest of the summer.


Mandy Shepherd, Carden Shrike Biologist