Curve-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostre)
Wister Unit, Imperial Wildlife Management Area, Niland, Imperial County, CA
28 November 2010
Robbie Fischer and I arrived about 8:00am to look for Curve-billed Thrasher which had been seen in the area. It was was discovered on November 9, 2010 by Enelda Wendelken and was photographed the next morning by Peter W. Wendelken (see photo links below). We searched without succes the date palms near the two water tanks where it had been reported. But when I checked the area around the entrance to the residences, I noticed a large brownish bird skulking under the small tamarisks by the fence. Eventually the bird started drinking in a small flooded area just outside the fence and north of the driveway. I called Robbie over and we got good views. I went back to the car for my scope and signaled to a family from San Jose who were also looking for the bird. The thrasher continued to forage under the shrubs and all observers got fairly good views. Eventually the bird flew towards us and landed in the dead branches of a larger tamarisk but it was partially obstructed by branches. It then flew into the private area and landed on top of a small hitch trailer where I got good, but brief views through the scope. It dropped to the ground and foraged under the trailer briefly before flying off to the south in the direction of a small playground behind the first house. We were unable to relocate it after that. Unfortunately, the bird did not stay still in the open long enough for photos.
The following description is based on memory
A large gray-brown bird above with plain head and back, and a gold colored eye. The long bill was curved throughout its length, but not as strongly arched as on California Thrasher. The bill was blunt at the tip and somewhat paler gray towards the base of the mandible. The throat was whitish with narrow lateral throat stripes on each side. The forehead and crown were nicely rounded, and angled with the bill, giving a different impression from Bendire's Thrasher which shows a shorter more tapered bill and usually a less steep forehead angle. The long tail was dark with whitish tips and white on the outer webs. The underparts were washed with grayish-buff and had small rounded brown spots forming a blended pattern on the breast. Undertail coverts were browner and darker. No wing-bars were evident. The bird was silent.
The lack of wing-bars or large 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.
California now has 25 accepted records of this species, mostly from the Imperial Valley and Colorado River. A Curve-billed Thrasher found by Brian Daniels at the Shipley Nature Area in Huntington Central Park, Orange County on 14 November and still present at least through 25 November appears to be the second acceptable coastal record.
Photos (external links)
Peter W. Wendelken - 10 November
(additional photo here).
Brian Daniels - 13 November
LeRoy Dorman - 14 November.
Eric Kalen - 3 December
Linda Pittman - 5 December
Pieplow, N. - Curve-billed Thrasher Identification (web)
Sibley, D. - Curve-billed Thrasher (web)