Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

Photos by Tucson Audubon photographer Jeff Stemshorn (a.k.a. Big Bird)
with cooperation of the birds at the Paton House, Patagonia, AZ.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Do These Branches Make My Beak Look Big?

Is it just me, or is this Curve-billed Thrasher's curved bill a little too curvy?  It almost looks as if the upper and lower bills cross over each other.

Somehow I got a mid-air shot of him flipping a sunflower seed into his mouth!
Notice the extended lower bill.  The reason I obsess over the bill size (no, size isn't everything) is that I'm always hoping to see a Crissal Thrasher.  It would be a life-bird for me, and in this case, a back yard first!

Distinctive features of a Crissal Thrasher

While the bird in question does have a long de-curved bill and uniform gray back, he lacks the dark cheek marks and rusty underside that are indicative of a Crissal Thrasher.

Now he's giving me the ol' stink-eye, likely for questioning his heritage.
Brown Thrasher at Gilbert Water Ranch, April 2011.
 As far as other thrashers go, I have seen Brown Thrashers at Gilbert Water Ranch and Desert Botanical Garden, and a Bendire's Thrasher at Red Mountain Park.  The Brown Thrasher stood out with his brown-streaked white breast, shorter bill, and brown body rather than gray.
Bendire's Thrasher at Red Mountain Park,
February, 2012.

The Bendire's at Red Mountain Park sang a beautiful melodious song that differed from the Curve-billed's song we are so accustomed to hearing here in the valley.  The only other distinguishing feature is a shorter, less-curved bill.

I suppose if I really have a hankering to see a Crissal Thrasher, I'm going to have to head out to the "Thrasher Spot" out near Buckeye, at the intersection of Salome Highway and Baseline Road.  According to some highly reliable birding sources (Laurence Butler, Tommy DeBardeleben, and Gordon Karre) you can see Crissal, LeConte, Sage and Bendire's Thrashers all in this one spot, hence the name. 

Photos by Peggy Thomas

For an extreme case of bill deformity in a Curve-billed Thrasher, see the Spring 1991 Journal of Field Ornithology, pg.s 157-161 "Abnormally Long Bill in a Young Curve-billed Thrasher".  The featured bird was found in Tempe, AZ, and sadly likely starved to death soon after leaving its parents.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

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