Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Northern Shrike - Lanius borealis
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General Comments This Far Northern species formerly ranged routinely in winter to New Jersey and Pennsylvania, tantalizingly "close" to North Carolina; however, wishful thinking for a Northern Shrike to make it all the way to our state has been a waste of time in recent decades. Only one of the four state reports/records has occurred since the mid-1960's, either owing to a continental decline of the species or to warmer winters in the East in recent decades. Not surprisingly, all four reports/records are from the northern portions of the state, in the winter season.

In 2017, the AOS (now named the American Ornithological Society) split the Northern Shrike off from the Old World taxon, into two species. The New World form changes its name from Lanius excubitor to Lanius borealis.

Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SA
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Accidental. One immature male collected at Pea Island on 9 December 1909 was noted by T.G. Pearson et al. in The Birds of North Carolina (rev. ed. 1959). The Field Museum in Chicago holds the study skin of this bird. Also at Pea Island, an immature was seen by three observers on 29 December 1994 [Chat 63:139-141 link].
Piedmont No records.
Mountains Accidental. There are two reports from Christmas Bird Counts near the Nathan's Creek community (Ashe) in 1963 and 1964 [Chat 63:140 link]. Though there are no published details, the reports were accepted by the continental CBC editor. Because the Loggerhead Shrike is/was very rare to absent as a breeder, and likely completely absent in winter, in the northern mountains, the identifications were likely correct. However, a NC BRC cannot review or accept such published reports without the descriptions of the birds. Interestingly, there are a handful of recent (1990's onward) CBC/winter reports of Loggerhead Shrikes in this same area of Ashe and Alleghany, mostly made by a single observer. So -- were all the shrikes correctly identified, were all actually Loggerheads, or were all actually Northerns?
Finding Tips
Attribution LeGrand[2023-03-26], LeGrand[2018-02-01], LeGrand[2017-07-07]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.