DVOC Main Page > Ornithological Studies > Shrikes

Ornithological Presentation
Separating Northern Shrikes and Loggerhead Shrikes

Study skins from the collection of the Academy of Natural Sciences

by Adrian Binns 12/04



Lanius excubitor


Lanius ludovicianus


Lanius from the Latin Lanio, meaning a butcher, from its habit of hanging prey on thorns. Hence the name Butcher Bird.

Excubitor from the Latin for guard or sentinel. Linnaeus thought that it looks out for the approach of hawks and warns little birds.

Ludovicianus: of Louisiana, no doubt where the specimen that Linnaeus used to describe this species came from.

Loggerhead.because its head is larger in proportion to its body than most birds.


10 inches (overall larger and bulkier) 9 inches (on a good day)

Black Mask

Narrow mask. The upper edge tends to run through the eye. Distinctly reduced in front of the eye and no black extends across the forehead / above the bill.
Click Here for images
Broad black mask that extends above the eye, into the lores and wraps around the top of the bill (extending across the forehead).
Click Here for images

Eye Markings

Shows a white lower crescent below the eye. Above the eye it is white
Click Here for images
The eye is surrounded by black.
Click Here for images


Longer, more elongated with an obvious hook.
Click Here for images
Shorter, stubbier lacks the obvious hook
Click Here for images

Lower Manible

Base of lower mandible often is paler. All black bill.


Faint gray barring. Be aware that juvenile Loggerheads also show this.
Click Here for images
Clean pale gray underparts
Click Here for images


Paler Gray than on Loggerhead
Click Here for images
Darker Gray than on Northern
Click Here for images


Whitish, contrasting with gray back.
Click Here for images
Varies from Gray to Whitish, though often with less contrast between the back and rump than on Northern Shrike.
Click Here for images


Tends to bob its tail and often hovers when hunting Shorter-winged and -tailed than Northern with quicker wing beats and less buoyant flight


Overall brownish with distinct brown scaling on underparts (usually until 1st spring). A dirty overall gray with fine barring on underparts (though this tends to disappear by the 1st winter) and a buffy wing bar


DVOC Main Page > Ornithological Studies > Shrikes