California Thrasher, Toxostoma redivivus


California Thrasher
California Thrashers, with their spectacularly long curved bills, are permanent residents of coastal and foothill habitat in California, particularly in or near chaparral. They are also found in suburban parks and gardens that have plenty of low cover; we have them regularly in the residential part of the Stanford campus, which borders on the Santa Cruz Mountain foothills.


California Thrasher
California Thrashers of both sexes sing all year around, but particularly in the
Spring, which for them starts in winter, even sometimes as early as November when
the bird above is singing. Their songs are long and complex, and include phrases
mimicked from birds of other species. They form long-term pairs, and their
species' permanent residence in the mild climate of the Pacific Coast allows
them to give birth to young as early as February, after which they often have
a second clutch of offspring. 


California Thrasher
When not singing, the California Thrasher is pretty inconspicuous, though not as difficult to find as some of the desert thrashers. As described by Birds of North America, and as illustrated above, "it feeds chiefly under cover on the ground by swinging its formidable bill in sideways arcs, digging vigorously and noisily in leaf litter ('thrashing' -- hence the name) and peering intently into its excavations."


California Thrasher
But they are not confined to feeding in ground cover; this bird is in a persimmon tree: above, approaching a fruit overhead; below, reaching down to eat.

California Thrasher

California Thrashers
We have had California Thrashers nest in our yard; above, a parent feeds a begging fledgling right under our backyard deck.

California Thrashers
As already noted, California Thrashers are sedentary, strongly territorial, and form long-term pair bonds; Birds of North America reports: "Territory established and defended by both members of pair; territory borders often disputed with neighbors. Fighting occasionally observed, when disputants scrabble with each other vigorously on ground, wings beating, sometimes rising interlocked into air with legs and bills thrusting." The pictures above and below show such a fight in October on the Stanford campus not far from my house; I learned first hand that those long curved bills can be put to uses other than foraging among dead leaves. More pictures of this battle can be seen here.

California Thrashers