Loggerhead Shrike Recovery Program

Often referred to as the “butcher bird,” the Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) is most known for impaling prey on thorns, branches, or barbed wire. However, this Virginia-native songbird is in decline. Potential reasons for their decline include excessive pesticide use, collisions with vehicles, adverse weather conditions, disease, and habitat loss. In collaboration with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI), and Wildlife Preservation Canada (WPC), VWL conducts research to better understand the causes of decline, and develop strategies to mitigate them.

VWL assists with inventorying and monitoring wild populations of Shrikes and their habitat in Virginia and West Virginia. Furthermore, we assist with banding of individuals better understand movement patterns and site fidelity, and collecting genetic samples to determine population health and connectivity. Monitoring our banded birds revealed that multiple individuals use the same sites throughout the year. Prior to banding, it was assumed these were the same birds occupying sites year-round. VWL will continue banding and population monitoring in 2018 and beyond.

As a part of the Loggerhead Shrike Working Group, VWL is developing monitoring protocols for citizen scientists working throughout the Loggerhead Shrike’s entire range. Data collected from these efforts will be used to identify critical knowledge gaps in Loggerhead Shrike breeding success and habitat use.

VWL used field data, collected by citizen scientists and submitted to eBird, to create an occupancy model which predicts Loggerhead Shrike occurrences in Virginia and the southeastern US. Our models suggest that they prefer open country habitat and avoid harsh weather/% forest cover. There may be a tradeoff between predation risk and increased cover from winter weather. With the help of our volunteers, we can advance Loggerhead Shrike conservation and recovery programs. If you spot a banded or un-banded Loggerhead Shrike in Virginia, please report your sighting(s) to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!

In addition to in situ research efforts, WPC and the Center for Species Survival at SCBI are establishing a captive breeding population of Loggerhead Shrikes, and have already successfully released several captive birds in the wild. To learn more about the captive breeding program and the release of captive Shrikes in the wild here, here, and here.

The Animal Care team at SCBI assists with health and fitness assessments of wild and captive Loggerhead Shrikes. SCBI scientists will collect and use data to develop reference ranges for haematology, biochemistry, and acute phase proteins in shrikes. This will provide baseline health information on wild populations and improve veterinary care for captive breeding populations.

VWL will continue to update our findings as we continue our efforts to understand and reverse the decline of Loggerhead Shrikes.

Interested in learning more about this unique species? View our educational pamphlet here.


Partners and Primary Investigators:
Amy Johnson - Virginia Working Landscapes
Warren Lynch - SCBI
Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries
West Virginia Department of Natural Resources
Wildlife Preservation Canada



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Virginia Working Landscapes
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
1500 Remount Road
Front Royal, Virginia 22630
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