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Monday, April 22, 2013

Birds Beginning with "California": California Thrasher, California Quail, and California Towhee

[El Morro Canyon -- Crystal Cove State Park. Orange Co. CA. April 2013]

There are 5 US birds that begin with the word "California":
  1. California Condor
  2. California Gull
  3. California Towhee
  4. California Quail
  5. California Thrasher
Of course, there are subspecies that begin with California (such as California Clapper Rail) but, in this post, we will focus on those birds that have full species status -- especially, the latter three (those photographed and presented in this article).

California Quail is a widespread landfowl species of the West. It is an attractive grey quail with bold facial markings, scaly breast, streaky flanks, and a distinctive topknot or head plume. It is, predictably, the state bird of California.

California Quail (male).

The female is a a drab, wholly grey version of the male with an undersized topknot. Like other quail, they flush explosively when approached too closely but otherwise prefer to stick to the ground. Their populations trends are increasing and it is classified as "Least Concern".

The next California bird is the California Towhee (above).  This is a large, drab, sparrow of the West. This species was earlier known as the Brown Towhee and later split into the Canyon Towhee (ranging in the Southwest) and California Towhee (ranging in California). Although very similar in appearance, the California Towhee's closest relative is Abert's Towhee; not the Canyon.

This sparrow is commonly found in suitable habitat, including suburban parks. Although its population is decreasing slightly, it is classified as "Least Concern".

Of our 8 thrashers, the California Thrasher is the only thrasher that is endemic to California (if you count Baja as part of California).

It is our largest Thrasher and is similar to other thrashers such as Crissal or LeConte's.

Population trends are mostly stable (or showing a slight decrease) and it is classified as "Least Concern".

Like other thrashers, although fairly common, the California Thrasher is rarely seen and keeps itself well hidden.

California hosts several spectacular birds; however, only 5 bear its name. Of these, the Condor is barely hanging on -- currently flirting with extinction (again) due to lead ingestion. Thankfully, the others are thriving and can be found relatively easily in suitable habitat in the state.

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