Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)

Picture Notes: I capture this shot of a Logerhead Shrike sitting atop a Banana Yucca more than two hundred feet away while hiking across the Long Canyon Wash below Yucca Peak in the Desert National Wildlife Range. This was one of the few birds we saw all day in this remote, dry desert area. My thanks to Judith Ross, my hiking partner, for helping me to identify this bird.
Description: The Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) is a passerine bird. (A passerine is a bird of the order Passeriformes, which includes more than half of all bird species. Sometimes known as perching birds or, less accurately, as songbirds, the passerines form one of the most diverse terrestrial vertebrate orders; with over 5,000 identified species. It is the only member of the shrike family endemic to North America. "Loggerhead" refers to the relatively large head as compared to the rest of the body. It has a large hooked bill; the head and back are grey, while its under parts are white. The wings and tail are black, with white patches on the wings and white on the outer tail feather. The black face mask extends over the bill. The shrike is a permanent resident in the southwest and breeds in semi-open areas, south to Mexico. Nesting in dense trees and shrubs, the female lays 4 to 8 eggs in a bulky cup made of twigs and grass. There is an increase in average clutch size as latitude increases. The bird waits on a perch with open lines of sight and swoops down to capture prey. Its food is large insects, small birds and lizards. Known in many parts as the "Butcher Bird," it impales its prey on thorns or barbed wire before eating it, because it does not have the talons of the larger birds of prey.