Sexing adult northern shrikes using DNA, morphometrics, and plumage

Ryan S. Brady, James D. Paruk, Anthony J. Kern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Northern Shrikes (Lanius excubitor) are predatory songbirds found primarily in taiga regions throughout their Holarctic breeding range. The species is poorly known, especially in North America, and is generally thought to be sexually monomorphic. From 2004 to 2007, we captured 50 adults in northern Wisconsin during the nonbreeding season (December-March) and determined sex using DNA extracted from feather samples. Males had significantly longer wings, longer tails, and less black in the outer rectrix than females, but body mass did not differ between the sexes. A discriminant function equation using tail length and extent of black on the outer rectrix correctly assigned the sex of 97.4% of captured adults. Plumage dimorphism was also evident, with males having paler gray heads and backs without brown tones, whiter underparts with lighter barring, and a more distinct and horizontal border at the base of the sixth primary feather. The ability to accurately determine sex will provide opportunities to examine possible inter- and intrasexual differences in the behavior and ecology of adult Northern Shrikes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)198-205
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Field Ornithology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2009


  • DNA analysis
  • Discriminant function analysis
  • Lanius excubitor
  • Plumage dimorphism
  • Sex determination


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