Sunday, January 15, 2017

Thrashing for Thrashers featuring our scarcest: Bendire's Thrasher

[December 2016. Phoenix area, AZ]

To discover a wealth of Thrashers, it is necessary to travel to the Western US. Indeed, the whole of the Eastern US, with the lone and wonderfully rufous Brown Thrasher, is limited to just that one species.

But, moving Westward, our Thrasher riches accrue quickly: first we come across Long-billed Thrasher (seen in this blog in Texas), Curve-billed Thrasher (seen here in Texas), Sage Thrasher (seen here in Colorado), Bendire's Thrasher (currently unsighted in this blog), Crissal Thrasher (seen here in New Mexico), California Thrasher (seen here in California), and the aristocratic-sounding Le Conte's Thrasher (unsighted).

And, the best place in the US to see Thrashers is the predictably named "The Thrasher Spot" (no joke -- this is the actual hotspot name in ebird.org). And, a winter visit to the Phoenix area afforded this blogger an opportunity to explore this fabled "Thrasher Spot" and other nearby areas; which yielded species such as:

  • Bendire's Thrasher
  • Crissal Thrasher
  • Curve-billed Thrasher
  • Say's Phoebe
  • Verdin
We start with Bendire's Thrasher. Discovered in Arizona by avid bird enthusiast Lt. Charles Bendire, it was first thought to be a female Curve-billed Thrasher by experts at the Smithsonian:



It was only when Lt. Bendire sent a further specimen of this species to Washington that Elliott Coues was able to confirm that it was indeed a new species and named it after the discoverer.

Bendire's, discovered only in 1872, is our newest Thrasher. Sadly, it is also our scarcest. While all other Thrashers in the US are classified as "Least Concern", the Bendire's population has crashed by over 90% since 1966 and is currently rated as "Vulnerable".

Crissal Thrasher is readily disambiguated from Le Conte's on account of it's pale eyes:



Crissal's Thrasher is named for it's bright reddish vent; and, unlike Bendire's, its bill curves sharply downwards much like our next thrasher -- Curve-billed Thrasher:


Note that the Curve-billed Thrasher has buffy spots on its breast unlike the arrow-shaped spots on Bendire's. It is the most common thrasher of the Southwest (seen here at Gilbert Water Ranch).

Also seen were:

Say's Phoebe:



Discovered by Thomas Say, this tyrant flycatcher is a common sight in the West.

Finally, a tiny songbird of the desert -- the Verdin:


Verdin is the only member of the Penduline-tit family of the Old World found in the US.

With the maiden sighting of Bendire's Thrasher on this trip, only Le Conte's Thrasher remains unobserved for this blogger to complete the entirety of Thrasher species in the US.

And, for all intrepid birders who have an interest in discovering the wonderful avian species of the desert -- just like Lt. Bendire did a 150 years ago -- there are wonderful hotspots waiting to be explored such as the Thrasher Spot in Phoenix.

1 comment:

  1. The Verdin is unquestionably the eye candy in this report. Good luck in your thrashing of Le Conte's Thrasher, Hemant. Too bad for Bendire's Thrasher.

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