Feather Sampling and Population Connectivity
Feather samples are collected from individual shrikes in conjunction with banding activities. By analyzing these feathers, we can assess genetic markers, trace elements and stable isotopes. This information will help us determine whether individual Loggerhead Shrikes in the southern wintering grounds are year-round residents or have migrated from the north. It will also help us more fully understand which migrating populations use which wintering grounds.
Much is already known about the type of habitat that Loggerhead Shrikes require. The current data suggest that different shrike populations have similar habitat preferences. However, we need to quantify the extent of types and extent of suitable habitat and assess the role of habitat loss in the population decline throughout their range. Meanwhile, we are using habitat modelling, based on what we know so far, to identify potentially suitable habitat and help to focus our survey efforts.
While much work has been done to quantify the habitat that shrikes need, different researchers have used different methods. This makes it challenging to compare the needs of different shrike populations in a rigorous way. To address this issue, we are developing a standardized method for assessing habitat requirements in both the breeding and wintering ranges. Ultimately, by collecting standardized data across the Loggerhead Shrikes’ range, our goal is to develop a set of Best Management Practices for maintaining and improving important habitat.
Since 2015, Wildlife Preservation Canada has been deploying VHF radio tags on a portion of the young produced each year in Ontario’s conservation breeding program. This allows researchers to follow their movements using the Motus Wildlife Tracking System and to gather data on migration routes and wintering grounds. Re-sightings of banded birds also contribute valuable information. For example, the data collected so far suggests that Ontario birds winter on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, and along the Mississippi Alluvial Valley.
Very little is known about the fitness and health of the Loggerhead Shrike. The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute is leading a study to assess the health of Loggerhead Shrikes. The sampling involved is undertaken in conjunction with banding efforts.