Lanius ludovicianus excubitorides, L. l. migrans

Status:  Fairly common regular spring and fall migrant statewide. Fairly common regular breeder central and west, uncommon east. Rare regular winter visitor southeast, rare casual elsewhere.

Documentation:  Specimen: UNSM ZM6750, 5 Jun 1901 Warbonnet Canyon, Sioux Co.

Taxonomy:  Various subspecies treatments are in use (Pyle 1997, Gill and Donsker 2017, Clements 2016). The treatment used by Dickinson (2003) is followed here. There are eight subspecies recognized, three of which are restricted to California islands and one to Mexico. The others are: excubitorides of central Canada and the central and western USA, migrans of eastern North America, ludovicianus of coastal southeast USA, and miamensis of south Florida.

Most of the breeding Loggerhead Shrikes in Nebraska are probably intergrades of the Great Plains and arid Southwest subspecies excubitorides and the widespread North American subspecies migrans (Rapp et al 1958). Those in the western half of the state may be fairly pure excubitorides, and those in the east mostly intergrades.

Changes Since 2000Loggerhead Shrike numbers appear to have declined sharply in Nebraska in recent years, especially in areas dominated by row crop agriculture.  Mollhoff (2016) stated the species was reported in 11% fewer blocks between the first (1986-1991) and second (2007-2012) BBA projects despite a marked increase in survey efforts during the second BBA.  BBS trend data shows a notable annual decline of – 3.23 (95% C.I.; -4.48, -1.97) during the period 1966-2015 and a similar annual decline of -3.35% (95% C.I.; -7.07, 0.06) during the period 2005-2017 (Sauer et al 2017).  See discussion in Summer.

Spring:  Mar 17, 18, 18 <<<>>> summer

Earlier dates are 1 Mar in the northern Panhandle, unlikely to have wintered (Rosche 1982), 11 Mar 2011 Phelps Co, 11 Mar 2007 Harlan Co, 14 Mar 2016 Fillmore Co, and 14 Mar 2016 Lancaster Co.

This species winters in the southeast, and so dates above are away from the winter range mapped above.

  • High counts: 29 in Keith Co 24 Apr 1999, 29 in the Panhandle 25 Apr 1999, and 23 there 1 May 2004.

SummerLoggerhead Shrikes are most numerous in western Nebraska and the Panhandle, where pure excubitorides likely occurs; the population of this subspecies may be maintaining its numbers better than eastern birds, mostly migrans and intergrades between the two subspecies. Indeed, the BBS Trend Map for 1966-2013 shows that western Nebraska populations increased at >1.5% per year, and in the rest of the state declined at >1.5% per year.

The decline in Loggerhead Shrike numbers in agricultural areas of Nebraska indicated by such data has been attributed by various authors (for example, Yosef 2020) to habitat destruction and pesticide use.  That these causes may indeed be operative in intensively cropped eastern and southern Nebraska is suggested by the fact that the lowest breeding numbers are in that area; lowest numbers for the state are in the Rainwater Basin, where Jorgensen (2012) considered the species a rare summer resident, formerly more common.

  • Breeding Phenology:
    Nest building: 29 Mar
    Eggs: 4 May-14 Jun
    Nestlings: 17 May-3 Jul
    Fledglings: 12 May-16 Aug
  • High counts: 16 south of Exit 1 on Interstate 80 on 11 Jul 1998, 14 in southwest Kimball Co 8 Aug 1998, and 11 in Box Butte Co 16 Jun 1995.

There were 10 birds in three family groups in about five miles of Dodge Co road 1 Jul 2009.

Fall:  summer <<<>>> Oct 28, 29, 29

Later dates are 31 Oct 2002 Lincoln Co, 2 Nov 2017 Lancaster Co, 4 Nov 1994 Dixon Co, 7 Nov 2013 Richardson Co, 14 Nov 2011 Custer Co, 25 Nov 2016 Richardson Co, 13 Dec 1997 Sutherland Reservoir, Lincoln Co, 14 Dec 2017 Harlan County CBC, 14 Dec 2019 Harlan Co CBC, 16 Dec 1990 Lancaster Co, 18 Dec 1994 Loup City, Loup Co, and 18 Dec 1998 Harlan Co.

This species winters in the southeast, and so last dates above are away from the winter range mapped above.  Dec and later dates may be of birds attempting to overwinter (see Winter).

  • High counts:  10 at Crescent Lake NWR 15 Aug 2015, 7 at Exit 1,  Interstate 80, Kimball Co 27 Aug 2019, and 7 there 16 Aug 2020.


There are usually fewer than three reports most winters and in recent years reports are less-than-annual away from the extreme southeast as mapped above. CBC counts held in the first or second weeks of the count period recorded only around one bird per 100 party-hours. There is a specimen, UNSM ZM17545, taken 10 Jan 1997 in Butler Co, and one was photographed in Dodge Co 10 Jan 2008.

Additional mid-winter reports away from the southeast are 1 Jan 1996 Sherman Co (Brogie 1997), 2 Jan 2005 Beaver Valley CBC, Boone Co, 15 Jan 2013 Valley Co, 21 Jan 2001 Dixon Co, 5 Feb 2017 Johnson Co, 8 Feb 2013 Gage Co, 15 Feb 2015 Franklin Co, and 22 Feb 2004 Furnas Co.

There are no mid-winter records in the Panhandle, where it is “best to treat all wintering shrikes as Northerns, unless convincing published details or collected specimens prove otherwise” (Rosche 1982).


BBA: Breeding Bird Atlas
BBS: Breeding Bird Survey
CBC: Christmas Bird Count
NWR: National Wildlife Refuge
UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum


Photograph (top) of a Loggerhead Shrike near Papillion, Sarpy Co 10 Apr 2005 by Phil Swanson.

Literature Cited

Brogie, M.A. 1997. 1996 (Eighth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 65: 115-126.

Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood.  The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2016, accessed 30 January 2018.

Dickinson, E.C. 2003. The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, USA.

Gill, F., and D. Donsker (Eds). 2017. IOC World Bird List (v 7.3), accessed 30 January 2018.

Jorgensen, J.G. 2012.  Birds of the Rainwater Basin, Nebraska.  Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Mollhoff, W.J. 2016. The Second Nebraska Breeding Bird Atlas. Bull. Univ. Nebraska State Museum Vol 29. University of Nebraska State Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Pyle, P. 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds. Part I, Columbidae to Ploceidae. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, California, USA.

Rapp, W.F. Jr., J.L.C. Rapp, H.E. Baumgarten, and R.A. Moser. 1958. Revised checklist of Nebraska birds. Occasional Papers 5, Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union, Crete, Nebraska, USA.

Rosche, R.C. 1982. Birds of northwestern Nebraska and southwestern South Dakota, an annotated checklist. Cottonwood Press, Crawford, Nebraska, USA.

Sauer, J.R., D.K. Niven, J.E. Hines, D.J. Ziolkowski, Jr, K.L. Pardieck, J.E. Fallon, and W.A. Link. 2017.  The    North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966 – 2015 (Nebraska). Version 2.07. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, Maryland, USA.

Yosef, R. 2020. Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.logshr.01.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 2021.  Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus). In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 22 Jan 2021