CROW Case of the Week: Loggerhead Shrike (#18-0961)

The loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) is not related to a familiar sea turtle that is currently beginning to nest on local beachfronts, but rather is a thickbodied songbird that is so-named due to the relatively large size of its head as compared to the rest of its body. These tweeters sing during courting or do so to maintain territories. 

While smaller than a robin, the loggerhead shrike can attack larger prey and is nicknamed the “butcherbird” after its carnivorous tendencies. The gray bird with a black mask and black wings with white markings is known for impaling rodents, lizards and other birds on thorns or barbed wire so that they can return and eat their caught prey later.

The shrike patiently waits on elevated perches and hunts by scanning the ground area, then dives at its prey and uses its thick bill with a small hook for killing. The northern mockingbird and Clark’s nutcracker are similar bird to the loggerhead shrike. It is smaller than the northern shrike but has a similar call.

At CROW, an adult loggerhead shrike was admitted to the hospital from northeast Cape Coral. The bird was found on the sidewalk, and the finder noted that it had ants on its face. When the bird arrived, it was noted in the intake exam to having swelling of its right shoulder and was suspected to have a fracture of the right coracoid, similar to a collarbone in humans. 

“Loggerhead shrikes are a common species found in this area. However, we only see approximately 20 cases per year in our hospital, and the most common reason for admission is falling from the nest,” said Dr. Robin Bast, CROW veterinary intern. “The shrike was unable to fly at time of admission to the hospital, and because of its debilitated state, the ants were able to attack it.”

X-rays confirmed the right coracoid fracture. Shortly after its April 6 intake, the patient’s right wing was placed in a body wrap and the bird was given pain medications. 

“The shrike had a body wrap bandage on its wing while the fracture healed and received physical therapy every three days,” said Dr. Bast. “Last week, the bandage was removed, and the shrike is currently on a week of cage rest – this means it is only able to take short flights around its small soft-sided enclosure. In a few days, it will be moved to a larger, outdoor enclosure for the next step of its rehabilitation.” 

On April 15, CROW medical staff inspected the fracture by palpation and deemed it stable. Three days later, the body wrap was believed to be no longer necessary.

“There does not appear to be any complications due to the fracture at this time, and it has normal range of motion in the wing,” said Dr. Bast. “It is building back strength in the muscles on the affected wing.” By April 24, the loggerhead shrike was closer to being moved to an outdoor enclosure for more extensive rehabilitation. 

“The patient will likely be released within the next one to two weeks once it has regained normal flight patterns,” added Dr. Bast.


CROW Case of the Week stories are written by Bob Petcher and appear weekly in the Island Sun and River Weekly Newspapers.

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