A practical guide to bird watching in Sonoma County, California

(Unless otherwise indicated, all phone numbers are in the 707 area code)


A year-round resident, but not common and numbers are declining, according to Bolander and Parmeter (a view supported by data in the 2012 update to that publication). Numbers increase somewhat in the winter months. Seems to be reliably present at Tolay Lake Regional Park (especially around the vineyard areas adjacent to the park), and known to have nested there (2012, 2013). Also noted in southeast county locations such as Ramal Rd. and Hudeman Slough. Likes open spaces but requires perches for hunting. Uses small trees or large bushes for nesting. Impales prey (large insects or small mammals) on thorns or barbed wire. Some sources say shrikes impale food to store it or to mark territory. Others suggest shrikes have comparatively small feet and claws so that impaling prey simply helps birds hold food while eating. Both are probably true. Shrikes tend to fly low and fast, often flying in shallow arcs from one low perch to another. Usually solitary.

Medium charcoal grey with a bluish hint above, paler grey to whitish below. Proportionately large head. Black mask surrounds a black eye and extends slightly over the top of the black bill. Bill is stout with a hook. White at throat. Wings and tail mostly black, but note white outer tail feathers and white in wings. Rump medium to very pale grey. In flight, similar to Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos), but white wing patches smaller, white in tail less conspicuous (and Mockingbird lacks the black mask and hooked bill). Juveniles paler with light barring on breast and scalloped look to back and scapulars because of feather fringes. Overall juveniles have a brownish look. The mask is paler, browner than in adult, but these features don’t last. Usually has gained adult plumage by first autumn.

Trivia: 1. “Loggerhead” refers to the bird’s proportionately large head. 2. Sometimes called “butcher bird” because of the way it impales prey.

Selected county sightings: Tolay Lake Regional Park (Mar 24, 2013, Colin Talcroft); Hudeman Slough (Mar 24, 2013, Chris Harbard); Tolay Lake Regional Park (Feb 9, 2013, Colin Talcroft); Tolay Lake Regional Park (Jan 14, 2013, Colin Talcroft); Bodega Dunes Campground Jan 4, 2013, Jackie Sones); Tolay Lake Regional Park (Nov 11, 2012, Colin Talcroft); Tolay Lake Regional Park (Oct 17, 2013, Peter Colasanti); Hudeman Slough (Sep 9, 2012, Susan Kelly); Carmody Rd. Pond (Aug 3, 2012, Rich Stallcup); Tolay Lake Regional Park (May 9, 2012, Peter Colasanti); Hudeman Slough (Dec 30, 2011, Logan Kahle)

Further reading:

Bolander and Parmeter, Birds of Sonoma County California, rev. ed., 2000, p. 85

Brinkley, National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Birds of North America, 2007, p. 325

Burridge, ed., Sonoma County Breeding Bird Atlas, 1995, p. 139

Dunn and Alderfer, eds., National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 5th ed., 2006, p. 312

Dunn and Alderfer, eds., National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 6th ed., 2011, p. 348

Dunne, Pete Dunne’s Essential Field Guide Companion, 2006, pp. 422-423

Ehrlich, Dobkin, and Wheye, The Birder's Handbook, paperback edition, 1988, p. 466

Fix and Bezener, Birds of Northern California, 2000, p. 254

Floyd, Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 2008, p. 302

Kaufman, Field Guide to Birds of North America, 2000, p. 264

Lukas, Bay Area Birds: From Sonoma County to Monterey Bay, 2012, pp. 184-185

Parmeter and Wight, Birds of Sonoma County California, Update (2000-2010), 2012, p. 50

Peterson, Birds of Eastern and Central North America, 5th ed., 2002, p. 254

Peterson, Field Guide to Birds of Western North America, 4th ed., 2010, p. 256

Peterson, Western Birds, 3rd ed., 1990,  p. 280

Sibley, Field Guide to Birds of Western North America,1st ed., 2003, p. 295

Stokes, Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 1st ed., 2010, p. 484

Vuilleumier, American Museum of Natural History, Birds of North America: Western Region, 2011, p. 262

Voice: Cornell Lab of Ornithology: All About Birds--Loggerhead Shrike



© Colin Talcroft, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

Unless noted, all photos by the author. If you would like to use one of my images, please ask for permission for non-commercial use with proper credit or commercial use with proper compensation.


Loggerhead Shrike, Tolay Lake Regional Park, Petaluma, March 24, 2013

1990-2013 Sonoma County data. Graph provided by eBird (www.ebird.org), generated July 19, 2013

EBird reported occurrence in Sonoma County

Loggerhead Shrike

Lanius ludovicianus