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Number of species: 80

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Northern Shrike - Lanius excubitor

Age of Northern Shrikes can usually be identified through consideration of overall appearance and finer examination of the wing. While males are on average somewhat darker than females, sex cannot be reliably determined by plumage. Rather, sex can be identified through brood patch / cloacal protuberance during the breeding season.

Northern and Loggerhead Shrikes are fairly similar in appearance; Northern Shrike can be separated by a pale base to the lower mandible, a distinct white supercilium contrasting with the black eyeline, and extensive barring on the underparts.

Quick Tips:

  • Look for molt limits among median and greater coverts - on HY/SY birds there are retained juvenile feathers with buffy tips contrasting with replaced all-black feathers; on AHY/ASY birds the median and greater coverts are uniformly black.
  • Check the contrast between dark and pale on p6 - on HY/SY birds there is a gradual transition, while on AHY/ASY birds there is a sharp distinction.
  • Consider the overall appearance - HY birds have a brownish tone, becoming more grayish as SY; AHY/ASY birds are uniformly gray above and white below, aside from light barring on the breast.

Species account prepared by McGill Bird Observatory

Click on any image below to bring up the side-by-side comparison tool.
Age / Sex  Image sets 
Hatch year / Unknown
Facial mask relatively indistinct; some brownish above; underparts whitish with distinct gray barring; some replaced greater and/or median coverts that are blackish, contrasting with brown retained coverts; dark pattern on p6 fading into pale.
Thumbnail - MG2-1272-07897-Lanius_excubitor_AOU_7_52-3597.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1272-07897-Lanius_excubitor_AOU_7_52-3595.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1272-07897-Lanius_excubitor_AOU_7_52-3596.jpg
Date: Oct 13
After hatch year / Unknown
Facial mask distinct; upperparts gray; underparts white with light gray barring; median and greater coverts uniformly black; dark pattern on p6 sharply defined.
Thumbnail - MG2-1342-01002-Lanius_excubitor_AOU_7_52-3603.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1342-01002-Lanius_excubitor_AOU_7_52-3601.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1342-01002-Lanius_excubitor_AOU_7_52-3602.jpg
Date: Nov 1
Second year / Unknown
Facial mask distinct by spring; underparts grayish-white with distinct gray barring; some replaced greater and/or median coverts that are blackish, contrasting with brown retained coverts; dark pattern on p6 fading into pale.
Thumbnail - MG2-1222-70302-Lanius_excubitor_AOU_7_52-3591.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1222-70302-Lanius_excubitor_AOU_7_52-3590.jpg
Date: Jan 29
After second year / Unknown
Facial mask distinct; upperparts gray; underparts white with light gray barring; median and greater coverts uniformly black; dark pattern on p6 sharply defined.
Thumbnail - MG2-1232-58510-Lanius_excubitor_AOU_7_52-3594.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1232-58510-Lanius_excubitor_AOU_7_52-3592.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1232-58510-Lanius_excubitor_AOU_7_52-3593.jpg
Date: Apr 18

Additional age / sex class descriptions

The following additional age / sex class descriptions were found for this species:
Age / Sex   Age / Sex class description
Juvenile / Unknown Brownish-gray, with cinnamon edging on wing coverts and heavy barring below.
Number of species: 80

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