With their long tails, melodious songs and zesty personalities, the Curve-billed Thrasher is one of my favorite Arizona birds.
Each bird possesses its own charisma. And sing…? Oh yes this bird can sing!
The Curve-billed Thrasher, Toxostoma curvirostre, is a common bird species of the Sonoran Desert.
Family: Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)
These desert birds are grayish, brown with a long tail and faint spots on the chest. An adult Curve-billed Thrasher has vivid orange or red-orange eyes. Juvenile birds have lighter yellow eyes.
Have you seen a Curve-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostre)? Then you’ve already witnessed their daring personality and fondness for charging into groups of birds provoking chaos.
This Southwest bird is a ground lover. Curve-billed Thrashers fly in abrupt jerky fashion from bush to bush. They especially like areas with thorny mesquite trees or cholla cacti.
This bird probes the dirt and leaf litter with its long, black, down curved beak. While digging holes in the soil, the Curve-billed Thrasher flicks aside debris in search of seeds and insects.
In worker fashion, Curve-billed Thrashers use their robust legs and feet to shuffle through the plant litter beneath a cactus or shrub.
In the U.S., this bird occurs most commonly in the southern parts of Arizona, New Mexico and western Texas. Most of the country of Mexico is blessed to enjoy the sights and songs of the Curve-billed Thrasher.
This male and female thrasher look very much alike. Immature birds are similar to the adults but with shorter, straighter bills and yellow instead of orange-red eyes.
It is the custom of this long-lasting pair of birds to mate in the winter after a charming courtship filled with song.
Beginning early spring the two birds cooperate in building a nest; creating a deep bowl-shaped structure lined with long, thorny twigs.
Curve-billed Thrashers prefer the lower shaded branches of the cholla cacti; while the Cactus Wren bird will build a ball-shaped nest on a higher cholla cactus branch.
Breeding usually takes place from May to mid-July. The female Curve-bill Thrasher lays her spotted bluish-green eggs early in the morning on successive days, usually producing a total of 3-5.
The eggs hatch in about fourteen days. The young birds will leave the nest, approximately, six weeks after the female produces her first clutch.
For the next several weeks, Curve-billed Thrasher parents nurture the fledglings, still answering their cries for food but teaching them foraging to encourage their independence.
Unfortunately, this bird has lost a considerable part of its south Texas brushland habitat. And the expanding cities of Tucson and Phoenix are causing a rapid loss of habitat in Arizona.
Although there has been little conservation work directly focused on the Curve-billed Thrasher; much work has been directed at protecting habitats in some areas where the species occurs.
Information on where Curve-billed Thrashers occur and in what numbers is vital to conserving the species. A project of Audubon and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, eBird is the world’s first comprehensive online bird monitoring program: http://www.audubon.org/bird/ebird/index.html