Panther Island Adventures!

Panther Island is 2,800 acres of restored wetland and upland habitats situated in the northwest corner of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary's 13,000 acres. It is home to numerous plants and animals including the Florida panther and the iconic wood stork.
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Monday, January 10, 2011

Critter of the Week January 10: Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)

         A beautiful and deadly medium-sized songbird, the loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) is another favorite resident of mine at Panther Island. If you look closely at the tip of its bill you can see a hook. After searching for prey from a perch, these guys use this hook to kill insects, lizards, mice, and even other birds. And they actually have a notch or "tooth" near the tip of the bill that helps sever the spinal cord of its prey! They then impale their prey on a sharp stick, thorn or say barbed wire fence to hold while they  tear apart their food. I actually saw a series of four grasshoppers impaled on barbed wire fencing along the perimeter of Panther Island once. This confused me at first until I saw a loggerhead shrike come in and start eating. When there is a store of food like this it is a cache which is unusual. I think it is pretty cool. 
        During the breeding season, they form seasonally monogamous pairs that will defend a territory. during the winter though they are solitary and defend separate territories. Females incubate the eggs (clutch size ranges from 1-9 eggs) for about 16 days The young are altricial and both parents feed them. They leave the nests after about 3 weeks. They often have 2 broods in a year  (sometimes even 3 in the south!). In Panther Island, they seem to prefer nesting in young oak trees.
         They are found in habitats where there is a mix of open fields or prairies and scattered trees.In certain areas of their range their population is declining due to habitat loss and insecticide/pesticide use. 

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