Song dialects of Loggerhead Shrikes
Naturalist(s): W.J. Davis and Karen A. Finch
Date: Dec. 3, 2011
Location(s): Manatee and Sarasota Counties, Fl

Field notes
This past December I recorded songs of a Loggerhead shrike perched in a small tree as it swayed back and forth in the wind. Although its performance does not match the virtuosity of a Northern Mockingbird, I was surprised at the number of songs it belted out over a period of few minutes. While mockingbirds seem to sing a continuous stream of songs, Loggerhead Shrikes sing short songs interspersed with periods of silence (see video). A given song is often repeated many times before a shrike switches to a new song. The repertoire of the shrike I observed contains at least seven identifiable song variations

   Most interestingly, the songs I recorded are different from those sampled by my friend Jim Davis from a shrike breeding in Sarasota County. Since the two birds sing different songs, it is safe to assume that Loggerhead Shrikes living in different regions possess song dialects, which means that shrikes learn what to sing. Such learning may also include mimicking the song of other species, not unlike mockingbirds albeit with less vigor. In fact, Loggerhead Shrikes have been reported to mimic the songs of small birds to lure them within striking range in order to catch them. Once a prey item is captured, a shrike often impales it on thorns and barbwire (see our video "Shrike impaling prey").
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