Northern Shrike

Lanius borealis




Shrikes (Laniidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Gray or green marked with olive, brown and purple

Number of Eggs:

4 - 9

Incubation Days:

15 - 16

Egg Incubator:


Nest Location:

In trees or shrub., 12 - 20 feet above ground

Nest Material:

Sticks lined with feathers, hair, and fine materials.





Northern Shrike: Medium-sized shrike with gray upperparts and pale gray underparts. Mask is black with white border and bill is heavy and slightly hooked. Wings are black with white patches. Tail is long, black, and white-edged. Sexes are similar. Juvenile is gray-brown above with faint bars on underparts.

Range and Habitat

Northern Shrike: Breeds from northern Alaska and the Northwest Territories south to central Quebec, northern Manitoba and northern British Columbia. Migrates south in winter as far as central and southwestern states. This species prefers forest edges, open willow brush, and brush-bordered swamps and bogs.

Breeding and Nesting

Northern Shrike: Four to nine gray or green eggs, marked with olive, brown, and purple, are laid in a nest made of sticks, lined with feathers, hair, and fine materials, and built in a tree or shrub 12 to 20 feet above the ground. Incubation ranges from 15 to 16 days and is carried out by the female. Young fly at about 20 days old.

Foraging and Feeding

Northern Shrike: Eats mostly insects, but also takes small birds and mammals, sometimes larger than itself. Forages from a high perch, swooping down to stun or kill prey with blows from its heavy, hooked bill; caches prey by impaling it on a sharp object such as a thorn or wire barb.


Northern Shrike: Song is composed of low-pitched, shrill cries and rattles, "kdldi" or "plid-plid." Calls include a nasal and complaining "fay, fay," a harsher "reed, reed, reed" and a dry "shraaaa."

Similar Species

Northern Shrike: Loggerhead Shrike is smaller, has a black mask that extends across top of bill, and shorter bill with less hooked tip.


Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X