Saturday, September 3, 2011

Curve-Billed Thrasher

Thrashers get their name from the jerky, side-to-side head movement with which they turn over loose top soil and dig for seeds, bugs, etc. when feeding. The Curve-Billed is the most common, and most generic Thrasher. While its modestly curved bill and mottled breast don't easily differentiate it from other Thrashers, its noticeably orange eyes are unique among the Thrasher family. 

This messy bird was sitting atop a covered yucca plant, looking rather grumpy. The blurry eye here is actually the result of catching the bird mid-blink (totally by chance).

Here the nictitating membrane is half-way over the eye.

Despite their tough, mean-lookign exterior, Thrasher also produce some ridiculously cute and cuddly chicks.

This Thrasher was intent with his burrowing. I'm not sure what he was pursuing, but he made quick work of the topsoil.

This Thrasher has clearly been helping himself to some prickly pear fruit, or else it just mauled another bird.

Gila Woodpecker

The Gila Woodpeckers barely make their way into New Mexico and California, so in a sense it's actually more unique to Arizona than the Cactus Wren (state bird) which ranges even into Texas and Colorado. The Arizona/Strickland's Woodpecker is only found in Arizona, but it's too uncommon to be the state bird. The Gila Woodpecker is a zebra-backed picidae like the Golden-Fronted and Red-Bellied, but the Gila's only cranial feature is a small, rounded red cap. These photos also allowed me to observe the zebra-striping on the inside of the tail, which I'd never been able to see before since they usually perch parallel on a tree with their back to you.
They're fairly common around Phoenix, though still hard enough to get a picture of since they continually circle around their trees and are pretty shy to begin with. I was lucky to get a few in-flight shots though. Like other woodpeckers, the Gila flies with several quick wing beats before allowing itself to glide and loose a bit of altitude.
With all the sightings, I was a bit peeved I had not pulled off any good shots of a Gila Pecker, but then this fine fellow had his picture taken 09/24/2011 at the Desert Botanical Garden. Click on the images for a larger viewing.


Courtesy of Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Northern Mockingbird

The common mimid of North America, the Mockingbird has a wide geographical range only exceeded by its vocal range. A healthy Mocker is a fine looking bird, with their well-defined grays, blacks, and white making them look very business/professional, even though their behavior is anything but. In addition to their audibility, these birds will fearlessly chase cats, hawks, dogs, and whatever else comes too near their nests or territory. 

Great-Tailed Grackle

The Great-Tailed Grackle lacks the blue and green sheen of his Common and Boat-Tailed cousins found farther East, but he can boast of being the longest Grackle, reaching lengths of 18 inches. Like other Grackles, a good specimen will still have nice iridescent purples and black that can catch the light well and accent their yellow eye.

The female has much more brown, and must be one of the more generic looking birds in the avian kingdom.

This guy has a bit of a cross-bill going on, which likely mean he hasn't been eating what he's supposed to be eating.

Embden Goose

The Embden is a breed of Domestic Goose thought to have originated in Holland or Germany, though other theories abound that it is in fact the product of English and German White Goose interbreeding. dating back to the 13th century.
They're nice, sturdy-looking geese with pure white feathers, light orange beaks, and blue eyes that resemble those of a human. They have a curious glide through the water in that they let their legs drag idly behind them when they can. I don't know if other geese indulge in such laziness, but it does add to the overall calmer demeanor of these pretty birds.

European Starling

Like the Eurasian Sparrow, and the Rock Pigeon, the European Starling is a well established introduced species whose range spans over the entire U.S. Although the Starling can be a very pretty bird when it dons its iridescent mating plumage, they nonetheless have a negative impact on other cavity-nesting birds as their aggressiveness and large numbers tend to monopolize nesting places from more fragile species such as the Purple Martin.

Watching massive flocks of Starlings move above city-scapes in the evening, apparently with some sort of common consciousness (no not really) is a truly incredible sight.