UrsulaV (ursulav) wrote,
UrsulaV
ursulav

There's a brown thrasher out on the suet feeder, and man, he's havin' problems. I don't know if he's Defective with a capital D, but he's certainly workin' for his suet. He should've been called a brown flailer. The suet has been reduced to a medium sized marble down in the bottom corner, so when he stands on the top of the cage and stre-e-e-tches down to get the suet, he overbalances and nearly falls off and has to flail his wings wildly. He's too big to stand on the side of the suet cage without tilting it to one side, which freaks him out, and he is either physically or emotionally unwilling to cling to the bottom and eat upside down.

His novel solution to this is to cling to the top and then launch himself down the suet cage in a kind of slow-motion lunge, snagging a large chunk of suet with his beak as he goes past, tumble off and land neatly at the foot of the tree and eat his suet. This is really quite a lot of work for a crumb of rendered cow with some millet in it, but he doesn't seem to mind.

Brown thrashers are a medium sized bird in the mimid clan, related to mockingbirds and catbirds, and they have the same tendency to sing a complicated medley of other people's songs. You tell a thrasher's song mostly by the fact that it's singing wildly unrelated tunes at the top of its lungs. Unfortunately, when you've got three mimics in the area, this poses a problem--how do you tell a mockingbird from a catbird from a thrasher?

Well--and this is kinda neat--a thrasher usually sings each "phrase" of a song twice. The mockingbird sings each phrase over and over, usually three or more times, and the catbird sings each one once (or sometimes even just a fragment of a phrase) and occasionally makes a sort of scratchy mewing noise. So you can't tell what the bird is from what it's singing, but you can tell by how often it sings it.

Physically, thrashers look sort of like a mockingbird that dressed up as a wood thrush, but they've got these crazy yellow eyes that make you suspect they might've killed the wood thrush and started wearing its skin around as a result of some deep-seated species confusion issues. The eye is the best clue when you're starting out, and you identify birds primarily by color, but eventually it gets easier to tell the thrush and the thrasher apart if you see 'em a lot, and you start to notice the way the bird holds itself and the general sort of body conformation.

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Brown_Thrasher.html
http://www.neoperceptions.com/fauna/birds/scbirds/images/brownthrasher1a.jpg

and Wood Thrush by contrast:

http://www.ownbyphotography.com/WoodThrush-9839C.jpg
Tags: birds
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