Curve-billed Thrasher, Spring Morning in the Desert

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I was hiking in the desert a few days ago, searching for lizards to photograph, when I came across a Curve-billed Thrasher, apparently enjoying the spring sunshine. I had the “wrong” lens for bird photography, with a focal length that is far shorter than what I typically use, but the bird was extremely cooperative, allowing me to approach within about 10 feet (about 3 meters). So, I went ahead and made this image.

I asked myself why this Thrasher was so nonchalant in my presence. Two reasons came to mind. First, this was in Sabino Canyon National Recreation area, a bit of desert that is extremely heavily trafficked by humans at times. The Thrasher had probably grown a bit blasé about humans on foot. Second, this is breeding season for these birds. Male Curve-billed Thrashers like to occupy elevated perches during the breeding season and call to attract mates. This bird was undoubtedly reluctant to cede his preferred perch to an interloper, human or otherwise.

The other day I remarked about the fierce expression that American Kestrels always have. For kestrels their facial expression matches their personalities. But Curve-billed Thrashers also spend their lives looking pretty fierce, with their long and curved beaks and those piercing yellow-orange eyes. In the Thrashers’ case looks are deceiving. These are very mild-mannered birds.

Image made with a Canon R5, Canon RF 70-200mm f4 IS L zoom lens, M setting, ISO 100, f8 @ 1/200.

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