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Collaborative Shrike Banding Project Continues in Virginia, West Virginia

Shrike banding; Rich Bailey.
By Sergio Harding, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and Rich Bailey, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources

In 2016 the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries continued leading a Loggerhead Shrike (LOSH) trapping and banding project in western Virginia in collaboration with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR). The work is implemented as part of a broader multi-state endeavor through the LOSH Working Group and this year banding activities included the training of state agency personnel from Kentucky and North Carolina for the expansion of the project to their states.

Twenty-one shrikes were color-banded in western Virginia in 2016, and feather samples collected for genetic and other analyses. Shrikes were banded during the breeding season between April and June, and on winter territories in both February and December. Banding took place at 11 unique pasture sites in the Shenandoah Valley and in southwest Virginia. To our surprise, a female breeder banded on territory in Smyth County, VA in May was re-sighted 550 miles away in August in Ontario, Canada. This is not the first documented case of post-breeding long-distance dispersal by LOSH. However, the shrike’s northward journey was completely unexpected. The event was another data point in support of the emerging connection between the Virginia/West Virginia and Ontario populations. Over the past five years, three banded Ontario shrikes have been re-sighted in Virginia. In addition, preliminary analyses of data collected through this project have demonstrated a previously unknown genetic link between the Ontario, Virginia and West Virginia populations.

In West Virginia, researchers monitored over 20 historical/recently-active loggerhead shrike sites in Grant, Greenbrier, Hardy, Jefferson, Monroe, Pendleton and Pocahontas counties. During the breeding season, shrikes were observed at nine of these sites, all in the Greenbrier Valley. Breeding pairs were located at eight of these sites, and follow-up visits found fledged young at three. Staff also banded eight shrikes during the 2016 breeding season, using color bands to enable field identification of individuals. And just as in Virginia, feather samples were obtained that will answer questions pertaining to subspecies status and fitness (fitness is being determined through blood collection rather than feather collection). Overall, the total number of shrikes banded in West Virginia since spring 2014 to 27.

Other valuable partners who contributed to the Virginia banding project in 2016 include the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Natural Heritage Program and the U.S. Forest Service.