Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Improvisator

Improvise - v., 1. to perform or provide without previous preparation. 2. to compose (verse, music) on the spur of the moment. 3. to recite, sing, utter, etc. extemporaneously.
That would be the Brown Thrasher, with the incredible play list. The Brown Thrasher is one of three members of the bird family Mimidae. All three improvise their song, and frequently mimic songs of other birds. They have no one song of their own.
Generally, Catbirds repeat phrases once; Brown Thrashers twice; and Mockingbirds three or more times.
Upon arrival in the spring, the male sings loudly from the tree-tops trying to attract a female.
SONG: Loudly sung, during breeding season, the Thrasher  repeats each phrase that it mimics or invents, singing each phrase two times in rapid sequence.
Once mated, they are more difficult to observe; giving softer versions of their songs from dense thickets, of shrubbery.

CALLS: A loud, sharp chak, like a Fox Sparrow. A low, toneless growl chhhr. A sharp tsssuk. A rich, low whistle peeooori, or breeeew.

pink: summer range,  light blue: winter range,  purple: year-round range.
Territory: Two to ten acres.

Brown Thrasher - Toxostoma rufum

DESCRIPTION:  11½" (29 cm) long. Slimmer, but longer than a robin; prominent wingbars, slightly curved bill, long tail and yellow eyes. Intensely yellow eyes!

NESTS: Built on the ground under thickets, or in shrubs and trees, 2-7  feet (60-210 cm).
Outside diameter = 12" (30 cm). Inside diameter = 3¾" (9.5 cm). Inside depth = 1" (2.5 cm).

Nesting Materials:  Thorny twigs, twigs, dry leaves, rootlets, wild grape vine bark, grass. Both sexes carry nesting material to the site, but the female does most of the nest shaping. 

EGGS: 4 - 5 eggs, bluish-white, with sparse brown speckles.
Incubation: 12 - 14 days. Both the male and female incubate. Nestling phase: 9-12 days. Broods: 1-2.
Plumage: Both sexes are identical in appearance. To distinguish them; the male sings, the female does not. Juvenals have a gray iris, adults a yellow iris.
Mud on bill from foraging in wet ground.
FOOD: Lots of beetles and grasshoppers (insects make up 2/3 of their diet.) Seeds and fruit (1/3 of their diet). They often scratch like chickens at the leaf-covered ground.
Brown Thrashers are nearly always seen at ground level.
They love shrubs, hedges, and low-growing thornapple trees; a favorite site for their nest. Thorny twigs often form the base of their nest.
        Dear Brown Thrasher:
I will still notice you in late spring
when your loud call becomes softer,
still heard by your Thrasher mate,
both of you protecting the brood.
I will still credit you for each
tent-caterpillar caterpillar you eat
from the crotches of small branches
in the Black Cherry trees.
I will still boast to others
as you show off your colors;
the "rusty"-ness on your back,
and on your long, fine tail.
I will still regard and admire
your very streaked breast,
but I doubt that I will ever find
your well-concealed nest.
Photo Location
Cannon Township, (Cannon) Kent County, (Kent)  Michigan (Michigan)
Kitchen Table Bird Book - John Ham  © 1984 (Ham)
Peterson's Guide to Birds of North America - Roger Tory Peterson  © 2008 (Peterson)
The Sibley Guide to Birds - David Allen Sibley  ©  2000 (Sibley)
Guide to Bird Behavior - Volume Two - Donald & Lillian Stokes  © 1983 (Stokes)