The steady decline and apparent disappearance of the loggerhead shrike from Mecklenburg County ranks right up there with the decline of the Northern bobwhite and Eastern whip-poor-will on my list of Most Depressing Bird Declines in the county. It has been a few years since I have seen one here.
It hasn’t always been that way. Shrikes, while never common here, were numerous enough to be found in appropriate habitat just a decade or two ago. Problem is, there is almost no habitat for them anymore. Shrikes are open-country birds, perching prominently on wires, tip tops of shrubs, or fence posts like small raptors. Old rural farmland was perfect for them but the small farms and rural openness is fast disappearing.
Shrikes are fascinating to me in that they are really a predatory songbird. Cardinal sized, shrikes can and do prey on large insects, mice, and even small birds. They have the hooked bill of a raptor to aid in tearing apart flesh. A nickname is the “butcherbird” because of its habit of skewering its prey on barbed wire or thorny trees and shrubs.
Shrike plumage is not gaudy but is neatly practical. I think they are right dapper really. White underparts set off by blue-gray upperparts give a classy look. The most notable mark is a black facial mask that helps cut down on glare in the open country for a hunting shrike.
So, I will try again to find that bird. I suspect it nested in the area and won’t leave anytime soon. It may very well be the only nesting shrike left in the county.