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Posts Tagged ‘Toxostoma rufum’

Usually when I see a Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum), it is buried in the underbrush, so I was excited to spot this one in the open during a visit on Tuesday to Green Spring Gardens with my friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. Two things that always stand out to me whenever I see Brown Thrashers are their extremely long tails and their beautiful yellow eyes.

Brown Thrasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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“Brown Thrasher” sounds like it could be the name of a heavy metal band.  I was therefore startled by the melodious sounds of the Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) that I encountered this past Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was entranced by its beautiful song as well as by its stunning yellow eyes. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “Brown Thrashers, like catbirds and mockingbirds, are mimics with extremely varied repertoires consisting of more than 1,100 song types.” If you click on the link for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, you will find some samples of the thrasher’s sounds.

In case you are curious, the bird’s name comes from its foraging behavior. Brown Thrashers typically feed on the ground, often in heavy undergrowth, and sweep their bills through the leaf litter and soil with quick, sideways motions.

Brown Thrasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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If this Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) had not been making so much noise as it thrashed about in the dry leaves, I might not have spotted it on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge—its camouflage is almost perfect, except for those startling eyes.

Brown Thrasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This week I visited the bird banding station at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. This is a very small operation, run almost entirely by volunteers, that bands mostly smaller songbirds.

While I was there, they captured a Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) and a Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum). Both birds were weighed, measured, and examined. The tiny Carolina Wren already had a band from a previous year and the much larger Thrasher got a band. The bands come in all sizes—it was amazing to see the range of sizes.

When it was time to release the wren, one of the volunteers handed her over to me. It was such an amazing feeling to hold the little bird in my hand and then to slowly release my grip and feel the tiny points of her little feet press down on my palm as she took to the air.

Click this link For more info on the banding station including hours of operation.

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

Brown Thrasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Yesterday I spotted this cool-looking Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) in the vegetation at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I especially love the thrasher’s light-colored eyes and distinctive markings.

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I heard loud singing coming from the top of a tree, I glanced up and saw a shape that reminded me of a mockingbird. Looking more closely, I realized that the colors looked more like those of a female Red-winged Blackbird, but the shape of the body and behavior were not those of a blackbird. Although I was pretty far away, I noticed that the bird had startlingly light-colored eyes. What was this bird?

Thanks to its physical characteristics, it was not hard to locate this bird in my identification book when I got home—it is a Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum).  According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “Brown Thrashers are exuberant singers, with one of the largest repertoires of any North American songbird.” The same article notes that some early naturalists thought that the Brown Thrasher’s musical abilities are underappreciated, as compared with the mockingbird, which has received greater acclaim. “Brown Thrasher”  somehow sounds to me like it should be associated more with a heavy metal band than with this pretty bird. Maybe this bird needs a better marketing strategy and a public relations campaign.

The sky was heavily overcast the day I took these shots. Normally I don’t like the look of the washed-out skies, but in this case I really like the effect. One of my Facebook viewers commented that it made the photo that I posted (the first one below) look like an Audubon print.

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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