Beatnik Birding: A True Desert Denizen, the Le Conte’s Thrasher

by Bryce W. Robinson

Le Conte's Thrasher- Toxostoma lecontei

Le Conte’s Thrasher- Toxostoma lecontei

The genus Toxostoma is comprised of some of my favorite birds. At the top of these species is the Le Conte’s Thrasher. I love this bird in part because it is rather difficult to find. I’ve spent a great deal of time in the Sonoran Desert, frequenting the sandy creosote scrub that is this birds habitat. Still, I’ve only seen a handful of this desert specialist, and each time has been memorable.

Recently, I found two birds outside of Palm Springs, CA, one of which was singing atop a creosote. I had never heard the song of the Le Conte’s. It is the same wonderful wandering warble of other Toxostoma species, yet it seems a bit more delicate.

The Le Conte's Thrasher signature habit, running along the sand as if it were a Roadrunner.

The Le Conte’s Thrasher signature habit, running along the sand as if it were a Roadrunner.

One of the reasons I am so fascinated by this bird is its habit to run across the sand between Creosote shrubs as it forages for food. It seems to prefer running rather than flying. I can’t help but think of the Greater Roadrunner every time I see this behavior.

Le Conte's Thrasher- Toxostoma lecontei

Le Conte’s Thrasher- Toxostoma lecontei

I find it incredible that this bird is only twenty miles from another southern California Toxostoma species. The California Thrasher is much like the Le Conte’s in appearance, but it frequents the chaparral hills of southern California. This pair of Le Conte’s Thrashers I found are on the western edge of the desert in the extremely arid white sand hills amidst Palm Springs iconic wind mill farms. Its proximity to the California Thrasher’s range is incredible, as the species is very different in habits and habitat. These two species are prime examples of evolution, adaptability, and the affects of environmental pressures.

 

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