Florence Merriam Bailey.

Handbook of birds of the western United States : including the Great Plains, Great Basin, Pacific Slope, and lower Rio Grande Valley online

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3. Exposed culmen equal to or
longer than middle toe
without claw.

Toxostoma. p. 437

Fig. 547.

V. Exposed culmen decidedly shorter than middle
toe without claw.

4. Plumage light gray, marked with white.

Mimus. p. 435.

4'. Plumage slaty, not marked with white.

Galeoscoptes, p. 437.

Fig. 549.
1'. Rictal bristles not conspicuous.

Fig. 550.

2. Length 7-8 . Heleodytes, p. 442.

2'. Length 3.50-6.50.

3. Tail equal to or longer than wing ; tail mainly blackish.

Thryomanes, p. 446.

3'. Tail shorter than wing ; tail not mainly blackish.
4. Outside toe much longer than inner.

5. Exposed culmen longer than tarsus ;
largely rusty brown.

Catherpes, p. 444.

5'. Exposed culmen shorter than tar-
sus ; largely grayish brown.

Salpinctes, p. 443.

Fig. 552.
4'. Outside toe not markedly longer than inner.

5. Tail less than three fourths as long as wing.


5'. Tail more than three fourths

as long as wing.

6. Head without white supercil-
iary . Troglodytes, p. 448.

Fig. 553.

Fig. 554.

6'. Head with white superciliary.

Fig. 555.

7. Back streaked with white.

Cistothorus, p. 449.


7'. Back rusty brown.

Thryothorus, p. 446.

Fig. 556.

702. Oroscoptes montanus (Towns.). SAGE THRASHER.

Bill much shorter than head ; rictal bristles well developed; wings and
tail of equal length ; tail graduated.
Adults: upper parts dull grayish
brown, indistinctly streaked ; wings
with two narrow white bars ; tail with

inner web of 2 to 4 outer feathers F - 557

tipped with white ; under parts whitish,

buffy on flanks and under tail coverts ; breast and sides marked with brown
to sooty spots. Young : like adults, but upper parts indistinctly streaked
with darker, and streaks on under parts less sharply defined. Length : 8-
9, wing 3.95-4.19, tail 3.20-3.35, bill .60-.65.

Distribution. Sage plains from M ontana south to northern Mexico and
Lower California, and from western Nebraska to the Cascades and the
Sierra Nevada.

Nest. Bulky, composed largely of coarse plant stems, dry Sage
shreds, and sage bark, lined with fine rootlets, and sometimes hair ; placed
usually in sagebrush. Eggs : 3 to 5, rich greenish blue, spotted with clove

The sage thrasher, and the Brewer, Bell, and lark sparrows, are
among the commonest birds of the sagebrush country, and the sage
thrasher's big gray body with its white tail corners shows from a
distance as he disappears with long undulating flight over the face
of the sage plain.

In the land of telegraph poles he often mounts one to sing, but
his commonest perch is the top of a tall sage bush, and as his song
is poured out even long after dark and sometimes by moonlight,
with scarcely less richness than the true thrasher's, you are glad he
lives in the deserts. In winter he leaves the sagebrush and wanders
south over the lower valleys.


703a. Mimus polyglottos leucopterus (Vigors). WESTERN

Bill much shorter than head, notched near end ; rictal bristles well
developed ; wings rounded ; tail longer than wings, rounded ; tarsus longer
than middle toe and claw ; scales of tarsus distinct. Adults : upper parts
grayish drab ; wings and tail blackish, wings with large white patch at base
of primaries, wing bars, white-tipped wing quills, and tertials with whitish
edgings ; under parts white, washed with clay color. Young : more brown-
ish above ; back indistinctly spotted or streaked ; breast spotted. Male :
wing 4.29-4.72, tail 4.53-5.~32, bill .61-75. Female : wing 4.25-4.65, tail
4.43-5.08, bill .59-.71.

Distribution. Southwestern United States from the Gulf of Mexico


(Texas) to the Pacific coast, and from Indian Territory south to Oaxaca,
Mexico, and over Lower California ; resident in the southern and lower
portions of its range ; migratory in the northern and higher portions.

Nest. Bulky, made of sticks, often thorny ones, lined with finer ma-
terials, sometimes gray moss or cotton ; placed in thick bushes, thorny
trees, yuccas, hedgerows, and vines. Eggs : 4, pale bluish or greenish,
spotted with reddish brown.

Food. Earthworms, insects, and berries.

The mocker almost sings with his wings. He has a pretty trick
of lifting them as his song waxes, a gesture that not only serves to
show off the white wing patches, but gives a charming touch of
vivacity, an airy, almost sublimated fervor to his love-song. His
fine frenzies often carry him quite off his feet. From his chimney-
top perch he tosses himself up in the air and dances and pirouettes
as he sings till he drops back, it would seem, from sheer lack of

From Biological Survey, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture.
Fig. 558. Eastern Mockingbird.

breath. He sings all day, and often if we would believe his
audiences he sings down the chimney all night, and when camp-
ing in mockerland in the full of the moon you can almost credit
the contention. A mocker in one tree pipes up and that wakes his
brother mockers in other trees, and when they have all done their
parts every other sleepy little songster in the neighborhood be he
sparrow or wren rouses enough to give a line of his song. The
wave of song is so delightful that even the weary traveler gladly
lies awake to listen.

But in broad daylight the mocker's ebullitions are not always
pleasing. In Texas the birds are so common and their mimicry so
perfect, that it is positively tormenting to the ornithologist. They
imitate everything from the squack of the blue jay, the varied notes
of the Cassin kingbird, the shrike, and the gnatcatcher, to the shrill
call of the rock squirrel. "Whenever you hear a new bird and hurry
through brush and briars to see it, at the end of your heated search
there sits a calm mocker! As the birds are omnipresent and always
singing somebody else's song, they sadly interfere with the ornitho-
logist's serenity of spirit.


From Biological Survey, IT. S. Dept. of Agriculture.
Fig. 559.


704. Galeoscoptes carolinensis (Linn.). CATBIRD.

Rictal bristles well developed ; tail longer than wing, much rounded ;
scales of tarsus indistinct. Adults : dark slaty gray ; crown and tail
black ; under tail coverts dark rufous. Young : similar, but washed with
brownish. Length : 8.00-9.35, wing 3.45-3.75, tail 3.70-4.25, bill .6S-.75.

Distribution. Breeds from the Saskatchewan to the Gulf states and
from the Atlantic west over the Rocky Mountains ; occasional on the
Pacific coast. Winters in the southern states, Cuba, and from Mexico to
Panama. Resident in Bermuda.

Nest. Largely of rootlets, placed in thickets and orchards. Eggs : 3
to 5, plain, deep bluish green.

Food. Ants, beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and other insects,
small fruits and wild berries.

In Colorado the catbird breeds from the plains to about 8000 feet,
quite commonly on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains, but
rarely in the western part of the state. In Utah it plays its eastern
role, Mr. Henshaw says, living in shrubbery on the edges of towns
and even coming familiarly to the gardens.


General Characters. Bill varying from shorter than head and straight
to longer than head and greatly curved ; rictal bristles well developed ;
feet large and strong ; tarsus conspicuously scaled in front ; wings and tail
rounded, tail decidedly the longer.


1. Under parts without dark markings.

2. Upper parts pale brown lecontei, p. 441.

2'. Upper parts not pale brown.

3. Under tail coverts dark rufous crissale, p. 442.

3'. Under tail coverts buffy or tawny.

4. Throat brownish redivivum, p. 440.

4'. Throat white pasadenense, p. 441.


1'. Under parts with dark markings.
2. Strikingly marked with blackish.

3. Upper parts deep rufous . . . : rufum, p. 438.

3'. Upper parts washed with golden brown . . . seniietti, p. 438.
2'. Faintly marked with dusky.

3. Under mandible yellowish at base bendirei, p. 439.

3'. Under mandible blackish at base.

4. Wings barred and tail strikingly tipped with white.

curvirostre, p. 439.

4'. Wings plain or obsoletely barred, and tail only indistinctly tipped
with lighter palmeri, p. 439.

Subgenus Toxostoma.
Tarsus longer than exposed culmen.

705. Toxostoma rufum (Linn.). BROWN THRASHER.

Adults. Upper parts reddish brown ; wings with two white bars ; under

parts buffy white, spotted with
brown. Young : spots on under
parts thicker, blackish ; rump
golden brown; spotting on wing
coverts fawn color. Length : 10.50-
12.00, wing 4.10-4.60, tail 5.00-
5.75, exposed culmen .90-1.10.

Distribution. Breeds from Can-
ada to Gulf of Mexico and from the
Atlantic to the Rocky Mountains.

Nest . In thorny trees, vines, or
bushes, a coarse, bulky structure of
From Biological Survey, U. 8. Dept. of Agriculture, sticks, rootlets, leaves, and weed
Fig. 560. stems, lined with rootlets and horse-

hair. Eggs : 3 to 5, buffy, or tinged with green, minutely spotted with
reddish brown, this sometimes becoming the prevailing color.

Food. Beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, bugs, and spiders; small
fruits and seeds.

The eastern brown thrasher is a fairly common resident of the Colo-
rado plains, breeding as high as 7500 feet.

706. Toxostoma longirostre sennetti (Eidgw.). SENNETT


Upper parts golden brown, with two whitish wing bars ; under parts white,

breast and sides with 'black wedge-
shaped or tear-shaped marks; bill
curved from base. Length : 10.50-
12.00, wing 3.80-4.20, tail 4.80-5.45,
?' - bill 1.05-1.28.

Distribution. Breeds in Lower Sonoran zone in southern Texas from
Corpus Christi and Laredo south to northeastern Mexico.

Nest. In bushes or thickets, made of sticks, vines, and sometimes
straws, lined with rootlets. Eggs : 3 or 4, whitish to greenish, closely
dotted with reddish brown, often most heavily around larger end.
Food. Insects and larvae, and berries.

The Sennett thrasher occurs with curmrostre in southern Texas,


but is much less common, only a few of the brown birds being seen,
while the pale, clay-colored curve-bill ranks as one of the commonest
brush birds.

707. Toxostoma curvirostre (Swains.). CURVE -BELLED


Adults. Upper parts light brownish gray ; wing's with two narrow white
bars ; tail blackish, four pairs of outer feathers
strikingly tipped with white ; throat white ;
breast and sides thickly spotted and clouded
with gray ; flanks buffy. Young : similar, Fi S- 562 -

but wing coverts and rump tinged with fulvous, and markings on breast
narrower and darker. Length : 10.50-11.40, whig 4. 15-4.55, tail 4.40-4.65,
exposed culmen 1.10-1.30.

Distribution. Lower Sonoran zone from New Mexico and western Texas
to Oaxaca, Mexico.

Nest. In cactus and trees, made of thorny twigs lined with a few
grasses. Eggs : 3 or 4, colored like those of palmeri.

The curve-billed thrasher is abundant and tame as you go through
the thorn brush of southern Texas, especially as you approach
Mexico. Its big clay-colored figure is largely in evidence, perched
on the brush or flying on short wings with long tilting tail across the
road. Cactus, yuccas, and thorn brush are all liberally supplied
with its big thorny nests. When we were photographing one the
owner came so close that we could see the bright red of its eyes. As
the birds watched us they gave their liquid two-syllabled call, which
is one of the loud, dominant notes of the country. .In a dry wash in
southern New Mexico, when we were preparing to photograph one
of the yucca nests, the brooding bird, who had been entirely hidden
by the yucca spears, quietly slipped out of the nest and disappeared
in the brush.

707a. T. C. palmeri (Coues). PALMER THRASHER.

Upper parts uniform dark brownish gray or grayish brown ; wings with
bars obsolete or wanting ; tail indistinctly tipped with lighter ; throat
whitish ; rest of under parts
grayish, obsoletely spotted with
darker. Length: 11.00-11.50,
wing 4.20-4.60, tail 4.80-5.20,
exposed culmen 1.18-1.40. Fi S- 563 -

Distribution. Resident in Lower Sonoran zone in southern Arizona
and Sonora, Mexico.

Nest. In cactus, of sticks, usually lined with dried grass. Eggs : 2 to
4, pale bluish green, finely and uniformly speckled with brown.

The Palmer thrasher is abundant on the cactus deserts of southern
Arizona, being resident up to 3000 feet.

708. Toxostoma bendirei (Coues). BENDIRE THRASHER.
Upper parts pale grayish brown ; wings with indistinct bars ; tail dark


brown, outer feathers tipped with white ; under parts brownish white,
indistinctly spotted with brown ; flanks brownish. Young : similar, but

wings and rump washed with tawny
buff ; under parts whiter, with nar-
streaks. Length : 9.50-10.50,

Distribution. Breeds in desert regions of Upper and Lower Sonoran
zones, in Arizona and southeastern California ; accidental in Colorado.

Nest. In trees, bushes, or cactus, small and daintily built for a
thrasher, of sticks and grass, lined with soft materials, such as grass,
horsehair, rootlets, wool, or feathers. Eggs : 3 or 4, generally greenish
white, spotted with pale reddish brown, usually heaviest about the larger
end ; sometimes grayish or pinkish white, spotted with salmon and lav-

Mr. Herbert Brown, who has an extended acquaintance with the
Bendire thrasher, says it is largely confined to the central part of
southern Arizona, unlike palmeri seldom or never leaving the flat
country. It is migratory, smaller and less common than palmeri,
and strangely silent for a thrasher. Only once in all his expe-
rience has Mr. Brown heard it give its splendid song, and only
rarely, when disturbed at the nest, has he heard it give its call of
tirup, tirup, tirup.

Subgenus Harporhynchus.
Bill longer than head ; breast not spotted.

710. Toxostoma redivivum (Gamb.). CALIFORNIA* THRASHER.

Upper parts dull dark grayish brown ; wings and tail unmarked, tail dark-

er ; under parts, including throat,
dull buffy or brownish, darker on
chest ; under tail coverts tawny.
Length: 11.50-13.00. wing 3.90-
- 565 ' 4.30, tail 4.90-5.80, bill 1.35-1.75.

Distribution. Coast region of California ; south to Lower California.
Nest. In bushes, a rude platform of twigs, roots, grasses, and leaves.
Eggs : 3 or 4, light greenish blue, speckled with clove brown.

The California thrasher is one of the most vociferously rollicking
jolly good fellows of his tribe. Perched on top of the highest bush
in sight, he shouts out kick' -it-now , kick'-it-now, shut' -up, shut'-up,
dor'-o-thy, dor'-o-thy; and then with a rapid change of mood, drawls
out, whoa -now, whoa' -now. It is easy to imagine such a bird a wag
and mimic, and attention has recently been called to his imitative
power by Mr. John J. Williams. He says that interwoven with its
own song are the quare, quare, quare of the California jay, the
quirring note of the slender-billed nuthatch, and the cackling note
of the red-shafted flicker, besides the call of the valley quail, the
kwee-kwee-kuk of the western robin, and the trill of the wren-tit,
which the mimic does so well that the birds answer back.


When he is singing, the thrasher's bill makes him look comically as
if he were trying to turn himself inside out ; but the bill, awkward
as it appears, is really an admirable pickaxe. Instead of having to
depend on his feet for scratching away the leaves, as the short-
billed birds do, the thrasher clears the ground by rapid strokes of
the bill, and then probes the earth with it for his food.

710a. T. r. pasadenense Grinnell. PASADENA THRASHER.

Similar to redivivum, but duller ; throat white ; chest band darker than in
redivivum. Wing: 3.92, tail 5.30, bill from nostril 1.21.

Distribution. Interior of southern California.

711. Toxostoma lecontei Lawr. LECONTE THRASHER.

Adults. Upper parts pale brownish gray ; wings unmarked ; tail dis-
tinctly tipped with lighter; throat
white ; rest of under parts dove color
and whitish ; under tail coverts bright
tawny brown. Young : similar, but
upper tail coverts more rusty, and
under tail coverts paler. Length : 10.50-11.00, wing 3.70-3.90, tail 4.57-
5.20, bill 1.08-1.35.

Distribution. Resident in Lower Sonoran zone in the desert region
from southwestern Utah to southern California, and south to Sonora,

Nest. Very bulky, composed of thorny twigs, grasses, and weeds,
lined with grass and feathers, and placed in cactus bushes or mesquite
trees. Eggs: 3 or 4, pale bluish green or greenish blue, minutely and
rather sparsely speckled with reddish brown, or yellowish brown and

In the lowest, hottest, barest deserts of the country, where
dwarfed thorn bushes, queer species of cactus, and rigid Spanish
bayonets space the baked mesas and valleys, the Leconte thrasher
is one of the most interesting bits of desert, life. The sand-colored
bird seems, like all of its surroundings, to have had the color baked
out of it, or like them to have taken on the colors which best fit it
to endure the desert temperature, sometimes 130 in the shade, and
much higher in the glaring sun. After a cool night on the desert
in March, when the morning air is loaded with the fragrance of
abronias, yuccas, and primroses, and the crimson and gold cups of
the cactus are brilliant among the creosote bushes, the thrashers are
heard fairly splitting their throats from the mesquite tops, and seen
running about chasing each other over the bare stretches between
thq bushes. Later in the day they rest in the shade of the chapar-
ral, and if frightened simply run from one cover to another, rarely
flying to escape pursuit. They easily outrun a man, and if followed
soon disappear, going with head low and tail straight out behind
like the road-runner, keeping always on the far side of each bunch
of bushes. With a good horse one can usually force them to take


wing, if they do not get out of sight before the horse gets started,
though they have many advantages in a country where a horse is
liable to fall into badger holes and kangaroo rat dens or come to
deep washouts too wide for a jump. VERNON BAILEY.

712. Toxostoma crissale Henry. CRISSAL THRASHER.

Adults. Bill long, sharply curved ; upper parts dark grayish brown ;

wings without bars ; tail faintly tipped
with rufous ; throat and malar stripe
white, in contrast to dark fawn or
grayish under parts ; under tail coverts
dark rufous. Young: similar, but
Fig. 5GT. more rusty above, especially on rump

and tips of tail feathers ; lower parts

more fulvous. Length : 11.40-12.60, wing 3.90-4.10, tail 4.80-6.40, exposed
culmen 1.20-1.50.

Distribution. Breeds in the southwestern United States from western
Texas to California, and from Utah and Nevada to Lower California.

Nest. In bushes or desert willow, made of coarse twigs, lined with
strips of plant bark. Eggs : 3, plain pale bluish green.

The crissal, or red -vented thrasher, lives on the rough sides of
rocky canyons, where there are junipers and low mesquites. In
fall he is said to eat juniper berries and other small fruits, and then,
food being plentiful, has a distinct revival of his powerful song.
Though ordinarily shy, individuals come about ranches and become
quite tame. (See The Auk, iii. 292.)


General Characters. Length about 8 ; tail broad, with wide feathers ;
tarsus scaled behind ; rictal bristles obsolete or very indistinct.


1. Belly lightly marked with linear spots couesi, p. 442.

1'. Belly heavily marked with ovate spots bryanti, p. 443.

713. Heleodytes brunneicapillus couesi (Sharpe). CACTUS


Adults. Throat and breast white, heavily marked with blackish ; pos-
terior under parts buffy, lightly
streaked with blackish; supercili-
ary white ; upper parts brown,
feathers of back with white mesial
- 568. streaks ; tail with middle feathers

bro.wnish, barred with black, the rest black with white subterminal band.
Young : similar, but streaks on back less sharply defined, spots on under



parts smaller, and colors more suffused. Length : 7-8, wing 3.18-3.60, tail
3-3.40, exposed culmen .80-1.

Distribution. Resident in Lower Sonoran zone, from southern Texas
west to southern California, and from southwestern Utah to central Mexico.

Nest. In cactus, yucca, or thorny bush, bulky, flask -shaped, in hori-
zontal position, entrance at mouth of flask; made of sticks and coarse
straws, lined with feathers. Eggs : 4 to 7, whitish or buffy often hidden
by reddish brown spotting.

The cactus wren seems on first acquaintance, in a cactus and mes-
quite thicket, the most unwren-like of wrens. Its big size, black-
ish color, and grating, monotonous chut, chut, chut, chut, have little
to suggest its small brown, sweet- voiced relatives. Its pose, how-
ever, is like that of the Carolina wren, for it sings on top of a
bare branch, with head up and tail hanging. It is a conspicuous
bird in that strange land of cactus, mesquite, and yucca, and fits
into its desert surroundings as well as its odd nest does in among
the yucca bayonets or cactus thorns. Its nests are so common that
in driving through the country one comes to pass them without
comment, unless the eye is caught by a particularly perfect retort
form for a photograph.

In New Mexico, Mr. Anthony found the wrens repairing their
nests in the fall, and thinks that they roost in them in winter, and
use them for protection against storms. He believes that each pair
of wrens keep several nests in order for this purpose.

713a. H. b. bryanti Anthony. BRYANT CACTUS WREN.

Similar to couesi, but thick ovate spotting extending over belly and
sides ; under parts tinged with buffy, and tail with three lateral feathers
distinctly barred with white.

Distribution. From southern California south to Lower California.


715. Salpinctes obsoletus (Say). ROCK WREN. 1

Bill about as long as head, slender, compressed, decurved at tip ; wing
longer than tail ; tail rounded, feath-
ers broad ; feet small and weak ; tar-
sus longer than middle toe, scaled
behind. Adults: Upper parts dull ^^

grayish brown, finely flecked with black p-

and white dots ; rump light brown ;
tail graduated, tipped with buffy brown and with subterminal band of
black ; middle tail feathers narrowly barred with blackish ; under parts
dull whitish, brownish on flanks ; chest usually finely speckled. Young :
upper parts rusty gray ; under parts whitish anteriorly, brownish on flanks
and under tail coverts. Length: 5.12-6.35, wing 2.68-2.80, tail 2.12-2.40,
bill from nostril .44-.S4.

1 Salpinctes obsoletus pulverius Grinnell. SAN NICOLAS ROCK WREN.
Like obsoletus, but entire plumage suffused with ochraceous or dust color.
Distribution. San Nicolas Island, California. (The Auk, xv. 238.)


Remarks. The pale grayish coloration and the black crescent on the
tail are good field characters.

Distribution. From British Columbia south to Lower California and to
Chiapas, Mexico ; from western Nebraska to the Pacific ; breeds through-
out its range and is resident from about the southern border of the United
States southward.

Nest. Usually in clefts or crevices among rocks, sometimes in hollow
stumps or about buildings. Eggs : 7 or 8, white, finely spotted on or
around larger end with chestnut brown.

tes ! To the worker in the arid regions of the west this
name calls up most grateful memories. On the wind-blown rocky
stretches where you seem in a bleak world of granite or lava with
only rock, rock, everywhere, suddenly, there on a stone before you,
stands this jolly little wren, looking up at you with a bob and a shy,
friendly glance. The encounter is as cheering as the sight of a bird
at sea, and before such meetings have been repeated many times, you
love the little wren as you do the barking conies that give life and a
touch of companionship to the barren rock slides of the mountains.

Even his song, which at first hearing seems the drollest, most un-
bird-like of machine-made tinklings, comes to be greeted as the
voice of a friend on the desert, and its quality to seem in harmony
with the hard, gritty granites among which he lives. Its phrases are
varied, but one of its commonest given perhaps from the top of a
cliff while his mate is feeding their brood on a ledge below is little
more than a harsh kra-wee, kra-wee, kra-wee, kra-wee, given slowly

Online LibraryFlorence Merriam BaileyHandbook of birds of the western United States : including the Great Plains, Great Basin, Pacific Slope, and lower Rio Grande Valley → online text (page 50 of 65)