Thursday, January 31, 2013

Curve-billed Thrasher

I can’t look at a Curve-billed Thrasher without thinking, why wasn’t he ever made into a Muppet character.  He would have been a marvelous Muppet, but sadly, it never happened.

This Curve-billed Thrasher is real and he lives in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona.  He uses his curved bill to ‘thrash’ around in the desert litter for insects, seeds and berries.  He sings a free form song full of whistles and squeaks and tweets.  He is a joy to listen to and never too shy to belt out a tune while perched atop a cactus.  He sings in the morning, all day long and even after the sun goes down.

This unfortunate fellow has a thorn up his nostril…ouch!  Lacking the means of grasping it with his foot, he may have to endure the pain for a while.  I wanted to pull it out, but I doubt he’d stand for it.

Nor do I have any doubt where he picked up that thorn.  Curve-billed Thrashers nest in the thorniest cacti, the cholla. Chollas are the stickiest, prickliest, most inhospitable cactus you’ll ever find in the desert.  The slightest brush against it will displace one of its arms onto your arm. Trying to remove it breaks it into two pieces, now both attached to you…then four...then eight.  Eventually you’ll look like a pincushion, feel like a fool and hurt badly. 

Why Curve-billed Thrashers choose this cacti in which to nest, I don’t know.  They certainly aren’t immune to the jabs of the thorns.  Maybe they’re confident enough and surefooted enough to navigate the dangers of such a prickly home…tricky.  I’m sure a nest robber understands what he’s up against and gives it careful thought. 

Widespread and common, the Curve-billed Thrasher has no fear of loosing his position in the desert.  
Either Muppet-like or evolved-to-perfection, it’s worth a desert stroll to find one.  Just stay away from that vicious cholla.


chol-la: (Spanish) ‘skull, head’, pronounced: choy-ya)

UPDATE, CORRECTION: I've been told by my nephew, Brian, that the Curve-billed Thrasher was likely the model and inspiration for the Muppet Gonzo. I didn't know that...thank you, Brian.