Monday, February 22, 2016

Tricks of the Trade # 6: picking out a singing Thrasher among the Mockingbirds

The Brown Thrasher resides all year in southern Louisiana, and is generally common, but is peculiarly scarce in the nesting season south of Lake Pontchartrain.  I typically find them in only 1-2 locations each spring-summer.

Thus have I been delighted over the past few weeks to have one singing in my neighborhood in Old Jefferson, apparently intent upon attracting a mate.  I first detected this bird three weeks ago in my back yard, scrounging for food on the ground along a shrubby edge.  A few days later it reappeared across the street, singing heartily from the top of a large live oak.  Thrashers have not nested on my block for a decade or more, so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Because Brown Thrashers sound very much like Mockingbirds, they are easy to overlook amid the vociferous throngs of the latter species.  It is worth listening for a mocker that sounds slightly hoarse, and employs mainly singlets and doublets.  Mockingbirds are more repetitive- repeating more of their phrases three or more times than do thrashers- and have a cleaner, more liquid voice.  Mockers are also more likely to sing from a man-made structure such as an antenna or telephone pole, while thrashers prefer tall trees.

Keep your ears open!


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