Birds

The California Thrasher

The California thrasher (Toxostoma redivivum) is the largest of the North American thrashers. At 12 inches, it is one inch taller than the ubiquitous brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) that is found on the East Coast.

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Brown Thrasher. Image Credit: Orietta Estrada

The California thrasher is considered to be semi-terrestrial ‚ÄĒ 2/3¬†of its foraging zone is on the ground and it rarely leaves the shrubs and bushes of its habitat. The California thrasher is an interesting looking bird. It has a specialized method of gathering food which employs the use of its long curved billed.

The California thrasher has short wings, and strong legs, which means that it’s not a great distance flyer, but a good running bird.

This long curved bill is used sift through leaf litter on the ground to find insects and seeds. It also uses its bill to pick at the ground and dig holes while hunting for Earth-boring bugs. The California thrasher has short wings, and strong legs, which means that it’s not a great distance flyer, but a good running bird.

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California Thrasher. Image Credit: Aaron Maizlish

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California thrashers have a narrow range, meaning that they are found in a very specific geographic location. These thrashers¬†are only found in the chaparral of California and into Mexico¬†‚ÄĒ¬†but only by 160 miles. In the foundational work on ecological niches, The Niche-Relationships of the California Thrasher, Joseph Grinnell observed that¬†temperature conditions are what delimits this thrasher’s range.

For example, there are three sub-species of the California thrasher: (1)¬†Toxostoma redivivum pasadenense,¬†or¬†T.r.¬†pasadenense; (2)¬†Toxostoma redivivum sonomae,¬†or¬†T.r. sonomae;¬†and (3)¬†Toxostoma redivivum¬†redivivum,¬†or¬†T.r.¬†redivivum.¬†Thrasher 1’s habitat range is restricted by low humidity, thrasher 2’s habitat is limited by higher humidity than 1’s range, and thrasher 3’s range is limited by a higher threshold of humidity.

You can see how these sub-species’ ranges are narrowed down by their location from Grinnell’s distribution map:

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Distribution Map of California Thrashers Sub-species. Image Credit: Joseph Grinnell

Understanding habitat-niches for different species of flora and fauna is critical to conservation efforts, especially now with growing concern (and evidence) of global warming and climate change.

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