A Day with the Thrashers

Brown Thrasher Parent and Chick

Sometimes life gets in the way. There are various things – life events, obligations, and the like, that have kept me from updating this blog, and have severely limited my time in the field with my camera. Fortunately most of these are good things, and though I miss looking through the viewfinder and connecting with my readers, I know that this is only temporary, and soon I hope to be back in full force. I have several ideas for future posts that I very much look forward to sharing.

For now, I want to share a short, picture heavy story about an incredible experience that Caro and I had a few weeks back on Memorial Day. Read the captions of the image below for the story about our day with the thrashers – a story of parenthood that I found fitting for my Mom’s birthday.

Early on Memorial Day I went out in the back yard and spotted a pair of Brown Thrashers displaying in a small space between our vegetable garden and our native pollinator garden. They seemed unconcerned with my presence and remained for some time before they flew off, and I returned to the air conditioning.
I was thrilled to see this. Though I wouldn’t call them rare, Brown Thrashers are relatively uncommon, and seeing one is always exciting. They are far less common than their close relative, the Northern Mockingbird, which is the state bird of Texas (as well as a few other states).
A short while late, Caro excitedly called for me to come outside. She had found something in the garden. There, nestled among the tomato plants was a fledgling Brown Thrasher, clearly fresh from the nest.
Nearby we saw one of the adults foraging on the ground, seeking out beetles and other insects. With a beakfull, the parent flew over to the chick and fed it right before our very eyes. Realizing that the birds were quite tolerant of our presence, I quickly went inside for my camera. This is a behavior that occurs countless times a day in neighborhoods everywhere, but it is so seldom that one is able to witness this. I didn’t want to pass up this opportunity.
Caro and I set up some chairs a respectable distance away and sat, and watched as the parent went about the yard looking for tasty morsels for the hungry chick. It returned to feed its begging offspring several times.
Suddenly we caught some movement on the roof, and saw another fledgling scurrying across the shingles.
Eventually we lost sight of it, but then it turned up again and slowly made its way to our rosemary bush.
The parent then began alternating between the chicks, ensuring that each had plenty to eat. In lean times, adult birds might favor the largest, healthiest chick, however in times of plenty they will distribute their time between them. And this certainly seemed like a time of plenty. The parent was a very successful hunter, and we even watched it return with two five lined skinks, which it promptly dismembered and distributed the pieces to its young.
At times the adult came too close for me to focus. I always enjoy seeing birds up close, where one can admire their incredible colors and feather details.
Caro and I were so enthralled with the day’s entertainment that we decided to cancel our plans and spend the day with the birds. At lunchtime we planned to run out to pick up some takeout, but just as we were getting ready to leave we spotted a third chick in the crook of the live oak in our front yard.
Nearby, in the branches of the oak we spotted the other parent.
This parent devoted its time to the third chick, and we watched it provide a variety of prey items, including some juicy earth worms.
Down the hatch!
It took a few tried, but the chick finally got it all down.
This parent continued to hunt in the front yard, while the other spent its time in the back. We were amazed at their ability to divide and conquer.
The pair in front were even willing to pose for a family portrait.
The chicks liked to move around, and they spent their time hopping from branch to branch, shrub to shrub, and bouncing around on the ground. We knew that it was only a matter of time before they would be gone.
We never saw the two chicks from the back yard again. I spotted the chick from the front yard sporadically over the next three days, then it too was gone. We still occasionally see the adults, who appear in the yard from time to time to forage. Hopefully all three chicks are somewhere out there, feeding and growing so that one day they may return with fledglings of their own.

5 thoughts on “A Day with the Thrashers

  1. I wondered whether thrashers thrash more than other birds. In the American Heritage Dictionary I found this etymology: “Perhaps from English dialectal thrusher, thresher, variant of THRUSH1 (perhaps influenced by THRASH, in reference to the bird’s turning over leaf litter energetically with its beak when feeding).”

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  2. Your photos are marvelous. I rarely come across thrashers here, but they were quite common when I lived in Iowa. Their name certainly suits. Like armadillos, the ones I’ve met here in Texas signaled their presence by shuffling litter and leaves around while searching for tidbits.

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  3. I’ve never seen a thrasher before but I have seen and heard many mockingbirds. Growing up a mockingbird used to imitate our family dog crying to come in, driving my mom crazy. Mockingbirds are quite protective of their nests and will chase people away, yet they are one of only a few birds that allow me to get some what close to them.

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