• Loggerhead Shrike Known for Impaling Prey on Thorns
  • Exhibit Draws Attention to WCS Efforts to Save Declining Grassland Birds

NEW YORK (September 15, 2009)— The Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Bronx Zoo welcomes to its collection the loggerhead shrike, a seemingly harmless-looking songbird best known for eating its prey after impaling its captives on thorns and barbed wire. 

Also known as the “Butcher Bird,” the shrike will call attention to this fascinating species, which has been rapidly declining as a result of habitat change.

The shrike can be seen near the zoo’s sea lion pool in an exhibit that replicates its declining grassland habitat.  The exhibit is “decorated” with thorn bushes and even a barbed wire fence, which the shrike uses to hold its meals.

Grassland birds in general have become more vulnerable over time due to climate change, increased pesticide use, and other forces affecting their habitat.  A severe population decline starting in the 1950s has dramatically reduced its range and numbers. Scientists estimate approximately 100 pairs remain in the wild in North America. 

WCS has teamed up with the Wildlife Preservation Trust Canada, which is leading a captive breeding program while conducting surveys to monitor shrike populations, and working with landowners and agricultural associations to help protect and enhance the shrike habitat.

“The exhibit was intended to bring attention to an endangered species that is losing ground as a result of habitat changes,” says Nancy Clum, Assistant Curator of Ornithology for the Wildlife Conservation Society.  “Canada has a reintroduction program for this species and we are hopeful that there may eventually be a similar program on this side of the border.” 

VIDEO:  http://www.wcsmediaproduction.com/review/video/loggerhead-shrike/

Facts about the Loggerhead Shrike

  • Black body, gray back and white wings
  • Notable field mark is the mask –  a black stripe around the eyes that extends across the face
  • Waits on a perch with open lines of sight and swoops down to capture prey
  • 8 to10 inches long with a 13-inch wingspan
  • Extraordinary eyesight and can focus on a grasshopper 50 to 70 yards away
  • The habitat in which they live is characterized by short grasses, interspersed with spiny shrubs and low trees.  Shrubs and trees are required for nesting and perching as well as for sites on which to impale their prey.  The lands they have become familiar with have been transformed for agricultural land use, particularly the conversion of pastures and hayfields to rowcrops, which resulted in the removal of trees and shrubs.

To learn more about WCS conservation efforts in the US, Canada and around the world, visit www.wcs.org for more information.

Stephen Sautner - ssautner@wcs.org, 1-718-220-3682

John Delaney - jdelaney@wcs.org, 1-718-220-3275

The Bronx Zoo is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m. on weekends and holidays through November 2, 2009.  Adult admission is $15, children (3-12 years old) $11, children under 3 are free, seniors (65+) are $13. Parking is $12 for cars and $16 for buses. The Bronx Zoo is conveniently located off the Bronx River Parkway at Exit 6; by train via the #2 or #5 or by bus via the #9, #12, #19, #22, MetroNorth, or BxM11 Express Bus service (from Manhattan that stops just outside the gate.) To plan your trip, visit www.bronxzoo.com or call 718-367-1010.

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide.  We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo.  Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony.  WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.    

Special Note to the Media: If you would like to guide your readers or viewers to a web link where they can make donations in support of helping save wildlife and wild places, please direct them to www.wcs.org/donation.