Friday, July 13, 2012

School for Thrashers

This morning a small Western Diamondback rattlesnake meandered into the yard. We knew a snake was nearby from the turmoil among the thrashers, cardinals, and Black-throated Sparrows. Nothing else stimulates such a flashing of wings and intense glaring.

A family of four Curve-billed Thrashers––both adults and their two fledglings––was especially emphatic. The adults seized the opportunity to teach their young a thing or two about the danger posed by snakes. Judging from the way the young joined the action, they are now well-schooled.

Curve-billed Thrasher protests a rattlesnake. (Photos by Narca)

A few minutes later a single Crissal Thrasher came in for a drink. This bird had no family in tow, but joined the general melée anyway!

A Crissal Thrasher joins the fracas.

Crissal Thrasher's best distinguishing marks––the chestnut undertail coverts and strong malar––aren't obvious here, but you can see the less-orange eye. To me they seem a little more slender and elegant than the Curve-billeds, with a slightly longer, slightly more curved black bill. With practice, you can learn to distinguish at a glance the subtle differences in proportions––but then confirm your impression by checking that malar mark and chestnut under the tail! Thrashers can pose identification challenges!

The business end of a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, staked out and patiently waiting for a meal.

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