Curve-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostre)
Shipley Nature Area, Huntington Central Park, Huntington Beach, Orange County, CA
16 January 2011
Photo © 16 January 2011 by Dan Singer. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Dan Singer and I were on our way to San Diego and agreed to meet Robbie Fischer at the Shipley Nature Area to look for the Curve-billed Thrasher which had been seen in the area. I believe it was found 14 November by Brian Daniels. It is the first Orange County record and second coastal record for the state. Robbie arrived first and notified us via cell phone that the bird was there. We arrived around 11am on the outside of the locked gate #4 where we met Robbie and Steve Sosensky who had been viewing the bird. Soon I heard the bird singing from what seemed like a considerable distance, but it was actually a whisper song. The bird was much closer. Dan spotted the thrasher singing from the top of one of the brush piles inside the nature center. We viewed it through the chain link fence with binoculars and borrowed Steve Sosensky's spotting scope. The bird posed in the open, then dropped down, then reappeared. Eventually it flew right towards the gate and perched briefly on some logs very close. It then flew into a green shrub (Mulefat?) and started foraging on the ground under the shrub where we lost track of it. Dan Singer attempted photos, one of which is reproduced here.
The following description is based on memory
A large grayish colored thrasher, uniformly gray above but blacker on the upperside of the tail. The long all dark bill was curved throught its length. The forehead was fairly steep, meeting the bill at an angle. The underparts were pale with small faint spots uniformly distributed across the breast. The feet and legs were dark gray, strong and sturdy looking. The eye was golden yellow or maybe orange in color, but not red. The bird had no obvious wing-bars and I was unable to see white spots on the corners of the tail. If they were present, they were relatively small.
The lack of wing-bars or obvious tail spots, and the indistinct evenly freckled breast pattern are consistent with the western subspecies T. c. palmeri which is the only race recorded in California. See Sibley and Pieplow web articles below for more detailed racial identification and taxonomy.
Additional Photos (external links)
Brian Daniels - 14 November
Steve Sosensky - 25 November.
Robert McNab - 11 December
Pieplow, N. - Curve-billed Thrasher Identification (web)
Sibley, D. - Curve-billed Thrasher (web)