Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
THE LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE.
LANIUS LUDOVICIANUS, Linn.
PLATE CCXXXVII.--MALE AND FEMALE.
This species may with great propriety be called an inhabitant of the "Low
Countries," as it is seldom or never met with even in the vicinity of the
mountains intersecting the districts in which it usually resides. It is also
confined to that portion of our country usually known under the name of the
Southern States, seldom reaching farther eastward than North Carolina, or
farther inland than the State of Mississippi, in which latter, as well as in
Louisiana, it appears only during the winter months. Its chief residence may,
therefore, be looked upon as the Floridas, Georgia, and the Carolinas. In these
States, it is seen along the fences and bushes about the rice plantations, at
all seasons, and is of some service to the planter, as it destroys the
field-mice in great numbers, as well as many of the larger kinds of grubs and
insects, upon which it pounces in the manner of a Hawk.
The Loggerhead has no song, but utters a shrill clear creaking prolonged
note, resembling the grating of a rusty hinge slowly moved to and fro. This
sound is heard only during the spring season, and whilst the female is sitting.
About the beginning of March these birds begin to pair. They exhibit at this
time few of those marks of the tender affection which birds usually shew. The
male courts the female without much regard, and she, in return, appears to
receive his haughty attentions with merely just as much condescension as enables
her to become the mother of a family, whose feelings are destined to be of the
same cold nature.
The nest is fixed in a low bush, generally near the centre of a dwarf
hawthorn, and is so little concealed as to be easily discovered. It is coarsely
constructed of dry crooked twigs, and is lined with fibrous roots and slender
grasses. The eggs, which are of a greenish-white, are from three to five.
Incubation is performed by the male as well as by the female, but each searches
for its own food during the intervals of sitting.
The young are at first fed on crickets, grasshoppers, and other insects;
but as they become larger and stronger, they receive portions of mice, which
form the principal food of the grown birds at all seasons. The Loggerheads rear
only one brood in the season.
Whilst this species is on wing, its motions are very rapid and direct, its
flight being produced by quick flutterings of the wings, without any apparent
undulation. The bird alights in a sudden firm manner, like a Hawk, stands
erect, silent and watchful, until it spies its prey on the ground, when it
suddenly pounces upon it, striking it first with its bill, but seizing it with
its claws so immediately after, that the most careful observation alone can
enable one to decide as to the priority of either action. I have never seen it
attack birds, nor stick its prey on thorns in the manner of the Great American
This bird appears in Louisiana only at intervals, and seldom remains more
than a few weeks in December or January. It never comes near houses, although
it frequents the fields around them. It has no note at this period, and appears
singly, alighting on the stacks and fences, where it stands perched for a
considerable time, carefully looking around over the ground. As soon as the
spot is thoroughly examined, it flies off to another, and there renews its
I have received specimens of our Loggerhead Shrike, of both sexes and of
various ages, from Mr. TOWNSEND, who procured them on the Rocky Mountains and in
the Columbia river district. These specimens are in no respect different from
those which I have obtained in South Carolina, where it is plentiful. That this
species should occur on both sides of the continent is not very remarkable, as
several other birds are in the same predicament. The Fish Crow, for example,
affords a more striking instance, as it is rarely found beyond the maritime
districts; whereas the Loggerhead Shrike extends its movements far inland in the
States of Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana. This species has been given as new,
under the name of Lanius Excubitoroides, in the Fauna Boreali-Americana; but the
description and figure indicate nothing peculiar; and the nest and eggs
described by Mr. DRUMMOND, especially the latter, are similar to those of the
My account of the habits of this species being meagre, I have great
pleasure in laying before you the observations of my friend the Rev. Dr.
BACHMAN, who has had much better opportunities of studying them. "Your
description of this bird requires, I think, many additions. You say it has no
song. This is true in part, but it has other notes than the grating sounds you
attribute to it. During the breeding season, and indeed nearly all summer, the
male ascends some cedar or other tree, and makes an effort at a song, which I
cannot compare to anything nearer than the first attempts of a young Brown
Thrush. He seems to labour hard, making as it were almost painful exertions.
At times the notes are not unpleasing, but very irregular.
"You speak of the male shewing but little attachment to the female. I have
thought differently, and so would you were you to watch him carrying every now
and then a grasshopper or cricket to her, pouncing upon the Crow and even the
Buzzard, that approach his nest, and invariably driving these intruders away.
Indeed I consider these birds as evidencing great attachment toward each other.
"I have usually found the nest on the outer limbs of a tree, frequently the
live-oak, sometimes the black-gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), and often on a
cedar, from fifteen to thirty feet from the ground. Once only I saw it lower,
on the toothache bush, Xanthoxylum, about ten feet high.
"I have occasionally seen this bird with young mice in its mouth, and have
found it feeding on birds that had apparently been wounded by the sportsman. It
sometimes catches young birds and devours them; but I am induced to think, from
the observation of many years, that the food of the Loggerhead Shrike consists
principally of insects. Grasshoppers and crickets are preferred; coleopterous
and other insects are also frequently seized; and I have seen it catch moths and
butterflies on wing. This bird has the same propensity as the Northern Shrike,
to stick grasshoppers and other insects on thorns. I have seen one occupy
himself for hours in sticking up in this way a number of small fishes that the
fishermen had thrown on the shore; but I never found either this or the Northern
Shrike return to seek this prey for food at any other time; but on the contrary,
the fishes dried up and decayed. I have seen them alight on the same thorn-bush
afterwards, but never make use of this kind of food. May it not be the same
propensity which Jays have, who conceal nuts and grain, and apparently do not
return to devour them?
"The Loggerheaded Shrike is partially migratory in Carolina. A few may be
found through the winter; but the number is ten times greater in summer; and
such is also the case with the Mocking-bird. It appears fond of the little
changeable Green Lizard (Anolius Carolinensis, Cuv.), and I have seen exertions
of skill and activity on the one part in seizing, and on the other in avoiding
their enemy, but the reptile, in spite of all its agility, is frequently
secured. On one occasion I had marked a lizard of this species on a fence. It
was then beautifully green; but on being chased by a Shrike, which observing me
flew off, I found that it had become quite brown.
"This species breeds twice in a season, lays four and sometimes five white
eggs. Occasionally it feeds on the small black berries of a species of Smilax;
this is in winter, when it is probably pinched for food. I have noticed it
building its nest in the same tree for a succession of years, never repairing an
old nest but always building a new one."
According to Mr. SWAINSON this species is found on the table-land of
Mexico, where it is very common.
I have given you, kind reader, the representation of a pair of these
Shrikes, contending for a mouse. The difference of plumage in the sexes is
scarcely perceptible; but I have thought it necessary to figure both, in order
to shew the quarrelsome disposition of these birds even when united by the
LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE, Lanius Carolinensis, Wils. Amer. Orn., vol. iii. p, 57.
LANIUS LUDOVICIANUS, Bonap. Syn., p. 72.
LANIUS EXCUBITOROIDES, American Grey Shrike, Swains. and Rich. F. Bor.
Amer., vol. ii. p. 115.
LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE, Nutt. Man., vol. i. p. 261.
LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE, Lanius ludovicianus, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. i. p. 300;vol. v. p. 435.
Third quill longest, fourth scarcely shorter, second and sixth equal; tail
rather long, graduated; bill black, upper parts deep leaden-grey, lower
greyish-white, the sides bluish-grey; a streak of whitish over the eye, and
margining the forehead; loral space, and a patch behind the eye, black;
posterior scapulars almost entirely white; quills and coverts black, secondaries
narrowly tipped with white; bases of primaries white, forming a conspicuous
patch on the extended wing; tail-feathers black, all except the middle pair
white at the end, that colour occupying nearly two-thirds of the outer, and
gradually diminishing on the rest. Female with the plumage somewhat darker.
Young brownish-white beneath, the breast and sides transversely barred with dark
Male, 8 1/2, 13.
From Louisiana to Carolina, laterally to the Columbia river, and northward
to the Fur Countries. Abundant. Resident in the south. Migratory in the
A male preserved in spirits measures 8 10/12 inches in length; extent of
wings 12; wing from flexure 4; tail 4 1/2.
The roof of the mouth is as in the other species; its width 7 twelfths; the
tongue is 6 twelfths, the posterior aperture of the nares 5 twelfths. The lobes
of the liver are very unequal, the right being the largest. The oesophagus is
2 1/4 inches long, 4 twelfths in width, but on entering the thorax contracting
to 2 1/2 twelfths; the proventriculus 3 twelfths. The stomach is irregularly
elliptical, a little compressed; the muscles thin, especially the lower; the
epithelium thin, tough, brownish-red, with longitudinal rugae. The intestine is
9 inches long, from 3 twelfths to 1 twelfth wide; the coeca extremely small,
2 1/2 twelfths long, 1/4 twelfth wide; the cloaca small and oblong.
The trachea is 2 1/2 inches long, moderately flattened, 1 3/4 twelfths
broad at the commencement, 1 twelfth at the lower part; the rings firm, about
56, with 2 dimidiate rings. The lateral muscles are very slender, as are the
sterno-tracheal, and there are four pairs of inferior laryngeal muscles on each
side, forming a large pad, as in the Thrushes. In this respect the Shrikes
resemble the Turdinae and Sylvianae, much more than the Flycatchers, of which
the inferior laryngeal muscles are small and blended. The bronchi are moderate,
of about 12 half rings.
THE GREEN BRIAR, or ROUND-LEAVED SMILAX.
SMILAX ROTUNDIFOLIA, Willd., Sp. Pl., vol. iv. p. 779. Pursh, Flor. Amer.,vol. i. p. 250.--DIOECIA HEXANDRIA, Linn.--ASPARAGI, Juss.
This species of smilax, which is common along fences, in old fields, and by
the borders of woods, is characterized by its shrubby stem, round branches,
roundish-ovate, acuminate, slightly cordate, five or seven-nerved leaves, and
spherical berries. It flowers in May and June. The berries are of a dark
THE FIELD MOUSE.
This species is found in all parts of the United States, living in the
meadows and woods. It forms narrow subterranean passages, to which it resorts
on the least appearance of danger, but from which it is easily driven, by
thrusting a twig into them.