The loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus), a songbird that hunts like a small raptor, maintains breeding populations on seven of the eight California Channel Islands. One of the two subspecies, L. l. anthonyi, was described as having breeding populations on six of the islands while a second subspecies, L. l. mearnsi, was described as being endemic to San Clemente Island. Previous genetic studies have demonstrated that the San Clemente Island loggerhead shrike is well differentiated genetically from both L. l. anthonyi and mainland populations, despite the fact that birds from outside the population are regular visitors to the island. Those studies, however, did not include a comparison between San Clemente Island shrikes and the breeding population on Santa Catalina Island, the closest island to San Clemente. Here we use mitochondrial control region sequences and nuclear microsatellites to investigate the population structure of loggerhead shrikes in the Channel Islands. We confirm the genetic distinctiveness of the San Clemente Island loggerhead shrike and, using Bayesian clustering analysis, demonstrate the presence and infer the source of the nonbreeding visitors. Our results indicate that Channel Island loggerhead shrikes comprise three distinct genetic clusters that inhabit: (i) San Clemente Island, (ii) Santa Catalina Island and (iii) the Northern Channel Islands and nearby mainland; they do not support a recent suggestion that all Channel Island loggerhead shrikes should be managed as a single entity.
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