Living Bird Magazine
Curve-billed ThrasherToxostoma curvirostre
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Mimidae
Strong legs and a long, decurved bill give Curve-billed Thrashers the perfect tools for hunting insects in the punishing deserts, canyons, and brushlands that are its home. That long bill also keeps long-legged insect prey at a safe distance and comes in handy for foraging and nesting among spiny plants, especially cacti. This species is so typical of the deserts of the American Southwest and northern Mexico that its whistled whit-wheet call is often the first vocalization that visiting bird watchers learn.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Your best bet for finding a Curve-billed Thrasher is to listen for a whistle “like someone hailing a taxi.” On early desert mornings, look for the calling bird perched at the top of a small bush or cactus, surveying its environment. But be careful to see the bird before you check it off—sometimes a Northern Mockingbird or European Starling will perform a perfect imitation. During the heat of the day, Curve-billed Thrashers are harder to find as they rest in the shade of cactus, cholla, and other desert plants.
- Cuitlacoche Piquicurvo (Spanish)
- Moqueur à bec courbe (French)
This species often comes to seeds, berries, insects, and water if offered, particularly on platform feeders or on the ground. Curve-billed Thrashers can sometimes dominate smaller birds at feeding stations. Large yards might even host a nesting pair in native vegetation. Find out more about their food and feeding station preferences at the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.
- Cool Facts
- The Curve-billed Thrasher that lives in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and northwestern Mexico looks different than the form that lives in the Chihuahuan Desert of Texas and central Mexico, and they may be separate species. The Texas and eastern bird has a lighter breast, more contrasting spots, pale wingbars, and white tail corners. The more western form has a grayer breast with less obvious spots, inconspicuous wingbars, and smaller, more grayish tail corners.
- The oldest recorded Curve-billed Thrasher was at least 10 years, 9 months old when it was found in Arizona in 1946. It had been banded in the same state in 1936.
- Thrashers have impressive bills, but the Curve-billed’s is actually straighter and shorter than relatives such as LeConte’s, Crissal, and California Thrashers. That’s because when famed English naturalist William John Swainson first described Curve-billed Thrasher, from a Mexican specimen in 1827, he had not yet seen these other three species.