The Conservation Ecology Center at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute is strongly positioned to contribute to cross-disciplinary studies and conservation of the Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus), a declining passerine bird native to Virginia. In collaboration with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, SCBI staff are currently assisting with inventorying and monitoring of the wild populations in both Virginia and West Virginia. This includes banding of individuals and collecting information on genetics and population health.
In addition to in situ conservation efforts, SCBI is currently establishing a captive breeding population of Loggerhead Shrikes and developing habitat suitability models to further investigate possible causes of their decline. Until the causes of the population decline are clearly understood, effective conservation strategies cannot be developed, and it is likely that the loggerhead shrike will be extirpated from further portions of its range. Areas of research priority (in random order) include:
- Specific habitat requirements (as apparently suitable habitat may, in fact, not be suitable).
- Potential role of pesticides (particularly insecticides) in population declines.
- Reproductive success and juvenile/adult survival relative to habitat characteristics.
- Rate and cause of mortality throughout the annual cycle.
- Role of habitat fragmentation in shrike declines.
- Monitoring remaining populations in areas that have experienced the greatest declines.
- Determination of wintering locations of the migratory populations.
- Level of competition between migratory and resident shrikes on wintering grounds.
- Over-winter survival of migrant versus resident populations.
- Subspecies clarification through genetic analysis.
New information gained from our in situ and ex situ research programs will contribute to a better understanding of the overall decline of grassland bird populations and help to conserve this threatened local species.