Eastern loggerhead shrikes are one of Canada’s most endangered songbirds. In the past, they could be found from Manitoba to New Brunswick. Now, however, there are fewer than 25 breeding pairs, restricted to two small isolated pockets in Ontario: the plains of Carden and Napanee. For almost 20 years, WPC has been leading recovery efforts, breeding birds and releaseing their young to boost the wild population. This time of year is always exciting as we see our birds bred and released in previous years return from migration, and nest and breed in the wild.

A few loggerhead shrike fledglings seen during some monitoring sessions in Napanee, ON. Photos were taken with an iPhone through a scope.

At the end of June, many of the loggerhead shrike parents in Napanee are starting to fledge young! “Fledge” is a term used to describe young birds when they first leave the nest. These birds are also referred to as “fledglings” and they’re at that awkward stage in their lives where they’re practicing how to function on their own – but most importantly, they’re learning how to fly! As our team observes these fledgling shrikes from a safe distance, we do our best to get a count of how many fledglings are with each pair of adult shrikes.

A young loggerhead shrike is seen stretching their wings after leaving the nest.

We also have the opportunity to observe a great deal of clumsy and cute behavior while these young birds explore their new world. We see them flap their wings frantically to build up their flight muscles, we watch them stretch their wings and legs, and we also observe them doing their best to preen their own feathers. At this point in their lives, the parents are still close by and are working very hard to feed these fast-growing youngsters.

An adult loggerhead shrike that was banded and released in Napanee this month, captured and banded for permitted scientific research.

Another exciting event that happened this month was observing Lead Biologist Hazel Wheeler banding an adult loggerhead shrike. The Loggerhead Shrike Recovery program at WPC makes an effort each year to capture any unbanded adult loggerhead shrikes we find. During the process of banding the bird, very important measurements are taken such as wing length, leg length (also referred to as “tarsus” length), age and sex of the bird, as well as additional measurements. Collecting this information allows us to learn more about this species, which could eventually assist with future recovery efforts. The bird is also outfitted with a silver band that has a unique combination of numbers, plus a combination of colour bands so that the bird can potentially be identified with binoculars or a scope!

We’ve been working so hard to monitor these birds, and finally seeing an adult up close was truly one of the best days in the field for our team!

Alexandra Israel

Napanee Biologist – Eastern Loggerhead Shrike Recovery Program

Alex completed her Master’s degree in Biology at York University, where she studied nest concealment in Wood Thrushes and how it might influence nest success in this Species at Risk. Alex also volunteers much of her time at Long Point Bird Observatory, where she assists with their migration monitoring program each year.

Alexandra Israel