Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

September 17, 2009

Bendire’s Thrasher

Filed under: backyard, Birds, digital benefits — richditch @ 6:31 pm
Bendire's Thrasher

Bendire's Thrasher

I’ve written here before about head shots. I don’t do very many of them, especially of small birds, since I prefer seeing the entire bird and some habitat. This shot was basically a test of what I could do with my first digital camera (a Nikon D70) shortly after buying it. At that time (December 2004) we had a couple Bendire’s Thrashers coming into our yard, and it was a good opportunity to compare them closely to the more common Curve-billed Thrashers we see in the yard every day.

This test shot was made with flash, and what seemed miraculous after a lifetime of shooting film – an ISO of 640. I was (and still am) impressed with the quality that digital delivers.

I was motivated to dust this off and post it following a discussion about an image of mine used in the quiz on a science blog: a fledging Curve-billed Thrasher also photographed in our yard. Everyone who named the bird in the posted image identified it as a Bendire’s Thrasher. I was surprised, since there’s usually someone who nails the ID.

It illustrated the difficulty of separating these two species in the field, and the state of information on this ID problem in the field guides. Most field guides caution that juvie curve-bills can resemble Bendire’s, but they seldom include good illustrations.

So, look closely a the bill of this Bendire’s Thrasher and note the way the lower mandible is a paler color at the base (closest to the head), along with its relatively modest size. Now, compare the size and color to that of an adult Curve-billed Thrasher (or any other in my previous posts – just use the search function).

What confused the viewers on the quiz site was the pale gape of the fledgling curve-bill, but it is not really like the lighter color on a Bendire’s.

For an extended discussion of the fine points in this pair of look-a-likes see Kevin Zimmer’s The Western Bird Watcher, or his more recent book that has taken its place.

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