March 2011 Bird Photo of the Month

Welcoming Spring © Yvonne Lee Tso
Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum)
Canon Powershot SX20IS, 1/320, F7.1, ISO 80

Photographer Yvonne Tso “caught” this Brown Thrasher singing lustily from the top of an oak tree, so alive!  Its song has been memorably described as, “plant-a-seed, plant-a-seed, bury-it, bury-it, cover-it-up, cover-it-up, let-it-grow, let-it-grow, pull-it-up, pull-it-up, eat-it, eat-it, yum-yum.” and is performed with the tail characteristically pointing down. Amazingly, every species of bird can be identified just by its unique vocalizations, consisting of songs and various calls (contact, predator threat, etc.). The Mimid family, in Florida represented by the Northern Mockingbird and the Brown Thrasher, tends to sing repetitive phrases. They share with Blue Jays the ability to mimic other birds, yet each species’ voice still can be distinguished by its tonal quality, speed, pitch, and repetitive pattern.  The Brown Thrasher holds the eastern North American record as the most varied singer with at least 2,000 different songs recognized.

No doubt this singer is the male, as the spring breeding season is when this normally secretive bird loudly proclaims his presence to attract females and establish his territorial boundary, counter-singing with males in adjacent territories. Though the female doesn’t sing, both sexes tend to skulk unobtrusively in thickets, especially when busy building a nest in a low shrub or right on the ground. That is why this fairly common garden bird is not often observed.  Their long, slightly curved bill is designed to forage by overturning the ground litter with rapid side to side motions while their fierce orange eyes spy food: insects (beetles, worms, grasshoppers, bugs) fallen seeds and berries. Yum Yum.

Juanita Baker
Pelican Island Audubon
Bird Photo of the Month Coordinator

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