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Bendire's Thrasher

Toxostoma bendirei

The Bendire's thrasher (Toxostoma bendirei) is a medium-sized bird, measuring 23–28 centimeters in length. It boasts a long tail and a medium-sized bill. Its upperparts are cloaked in a grayish-brown hue, while the underparts are paler with faint, dark streaks. A notable feature is the pale base of the lower bill, complemented by striking bright yellow eyes and white-tipped tail feathers.

Identification Tips

Distinguishing the Bendire's thrasher from its close relative, the curve-billed thrasher, can be quite the challenge due to their similar coloration and structure. However, the Bendire's thrasher's shorter bill serves as a key identifier among mature birds. Juveniles may still be confused with young curve-billed thrashers, as their beaks have not yet reached full length. The yellow eyes and pale base of the lower mandible are additional markers to differentiate the Bendire's thrasher from its curve-billed counterpart.

Habitat

This thrasher favors the brush-filled deserts and valleys, as well as the arid landscapes of the southwestern United States, particularly along the southern borders of Arizona and New Mexico with Mexico, including the Madrean sky islands and the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range.

Distribution

The Bendire's thrasher is polytypic, with two subspecies in addition to the nominate form. Its range extends across Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and California in the United States, and into Sonora, Sinaloa, and Baja California in Mexico. Notably, there is a record from Alberta, Canada, dating back to 1988.

Nesting

The thrasher crafts a cup-shaped nest from twigs, lining it with grass stems and rootlets. Typically nestled within a cactus or a thorny desert shrub or tree, the female lays three to four eggs, which are pale green to blue, speckled with brown and purple.

Diet and Feeding

Bendire's thrashers forage for small ground-dwelling insects and supplement their diet with berries.

Song & Calls

The Bendire's thrasher, a member of the mimid family, is often silent but known to weave the songs and calls of other species into its own repertoire. Its most common call is a sharp "chek."

Conservation Status

The Bendire's thrasher is currently listed as Vulnerable. The species faces range-wide declines, primarily due to the conversion of its natural habitat into farmland.

In the quiet of the desert, one might be fortunate enough to encounter the Bendire's thrasher, a bird whose presence is as subtle as the whisper of the arid breeze. Keep a keen eye for the pale bill base and listen for the distinctive "chek" to confirm your sighting of this increasingly rare desert dweller.

Bendire's Thrasher Sounds


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