Cochise County Birds: The Curve-billed Thrasher

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Yesterday, our Gato cat’s riveted attention helped me notice a curve-billed thrasher foraging for insects and/or seeds.  This Cochise county resident bird  does also eat berries, but there aren’t any of those right outside my bedroom window.

I don’t usually start writing a page about a species until there are at least a dozen publication-quality photos on hand (all captured by the Canon PowerShot), but an exception had to be made for Toxostoma Curvirostre.  It was a young one, immature enough to retain the yellow eyes.

Mature curve-billed thrashers have orange-red eyes.

The reason for the exception:  Two exceptional photos I didn’t want to risk misplacing. When Gato saw I was joining him at the window to birdwatch, he gave me a little greeting meow–which was enough to launch the bird from the ground into a mesquite tree a few feet away.

Hey, if I were a robin-sized bird (but not as chubby) and heard a sudden (*cat!*) sound, I’d be flapping my wings and looking for a safer spot, too!

Since this was the first potential curve-billed thrasher photo op to come up since we moved here in 2009, it was a bit of a bummer to lose the chance at 30 or 100 shutter-clicks of a foraging bird.  On the other hand, it looked like one or two  in-tree pictures might be a possibility…and when the first one hit the computer screen, I was blown away.

The youngster was staring right back at me, looking entirely ticked!  As in, “How dare you interrupt my breakfast, fool?!”

Priceless.

How dare you interrupt my breakfast!”

Before long–in fact, by the time the next photo after this one was taken, the irritation with the meow-scare seemed to have dissipated.  The thrasher seemed to quit worrying about the human and/or the cat inside the house.  We (my feline forward spotter and I) got a great profile picture.

In both photos, the play of light and shadow was irresistible.  Time to write about the curve-bill.

Classic. Absolutely classic.

Have you wondered why the so-called “featured photo” was chosen?  That’s the first one you see on a page, i.e. the one running across the top before you get to the body of the text.

Well, there is a thrasher in the picture.  Right dead center, muchly hidden behind mesquite limbs and foliage, but it’s most definitely there.

Pam and I hope this particular bird hangs around, finds a mate and a friendly cholla cactus in which to build its nest, and hatches many beautiful blue-green speckled curve-billed thrasher eggs in the coming years.  We do have a few cholla on the property, and thrashers prefer those for nesting sites.

If a nest pops up, there’ll be some watching going on, hoping for a glimpse of those eggs and a chance to get a photo to add to this page.

We especially wish the best for this species due to reports that curve-billed thrasher populations have been declining for quite some time now.  They’re indigenous to the Sonoran desert in the southwestern United States and to much  of Mexico, but their habitat has been disappearing.

Okay, so they’re bullies in one sense.  They’ll push out cactus wrens from likely cactus plants in order to make their own homes among the thorns.  But it’s hard to fault them for that.

After all, I’ve beaten out other humans over the years, rented or purchased a place just by being a bit quicker and more aggressive at getting my foot in the door.

Human or bird, Cochise County (Arizona) or otherwise, you snooze, you lose.

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