Curve-billed Thrasher – a tale of four eggs

Article written and photographed by our Interpretive Guide and Birder John Brush.

One of the most exciting things about being here at Quinta Mazatlan is the everyday connection with nature – whether we’re pulling into the parking lot, walking up the beautiful bougainvillea lane, or looking out an office window; nature is everywhere.

A great example of this has been a lively pair of Curve-billed Thrashers nesting in our parking lot. The lush native prickly pear cacti serve as a great home for these classic birds of the arid southwest, as they frequently nest in thorny plants, such as cacti, yucca, and Texas Ebony.

Curve-billed Thrasher Collage

We get to check on the nest every day from a distance, seeing how the thrashers are progressing – we have already witnessed one successful nesting attempt (4 babies hatched and fledged!) and the thrashers are well underway on their second brood of the season.

Here’s a typical nesting attempt by the thrashers (information based from the Birds of North America account, by Cornell Lab of Ornithology):

  • A cup nest of twigs and other materials is built by both sexes, usually taking a week or two to build.
  • 3-5 blue, speckled eggs are laid, one day at a time. They are incubated by both the male and female thrashers.
  • After a couple weeks of incubation, the eggs hatch asynchronously, sometimes up to 1 full day between eggs. This means that the firstborn thrasher can be up to 5 days older than its youngest sibling.
  • The baby thrashers are born naked and helpless, relying on the protection of the nest and their parents for survival. The parents feed the hungry babies an assortment of insects, such as grasshoppers and beetles, along with juicy berries.
  • After about 2 weeks of being fed in the nest, during which the thrasher babies grow their feathers and further develop their bodies, the baby birds fledge.

This year I’ve especially gotten fond of seeing the juvenile birds pale brown eyes, as compared to the vivid orange eyes of their parents. The curious young are fun to watch as they familiarize themselves with their home thorn forest, scratching in the leaf litter and running vigorously across trails.

Who knows, maybe I’ll get to watch these new thrashers raise their own young in the upcoming years. What a treat!

Keep up with this nest on our Facebook!  Join us for a Bird and Nature Walk at 8:30am every Saturday throughout the summer at Quinta Mazatlan!

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Nature’s Egg Hunt

mockingbird-eggs-050707

Mockingbird Eggs

As many across the Valley prepare for annual Easter Egg Hunts, it might be worthy of taking a few hours to stroll through one of the Valley’s nature preserves this holiday… for a quite different magical excitement—the search for an elusive “nature” egg. 

hummer eggs

Hummingbird Eggs

Probably birds first come to mind when asked “Who lays an EGG?”  Certainly most of us will never have the privilege of ever spotting one in a real nest…their parents so cleverly disguise or hide them.  Hummingbird eggs can be the size of your little fingernail! (Imagine a fully formed animal inside the space of your fingernail!)  We don’t have the largest egg in the world in the Valley (the ostrich), but perhaps the Red Tailed Hawk’s speckled 2 inch egg is our largest.   I wonder if you could guess three of our birds that have BLUE shells:  Great Blue Heron, American Robin,  and our state bird, the Northern Mockingbird!  An array of speckled patterns on our eggs keep birds like killdeer chicks, Northern Cardinals, and Kingbirds well camoflagued in their egg cases.  But not owls and woodpeckers!  Its as if they DARE us to see them—white as the moon!  They know no predator is likely to EVER see THEIR eggs hiding deep  inside the dark palm hole condos.  And the common paraque…well..good luck.  It’s hard enough to even see the BIRD just sitting there in broad daylight on the forest floor, it’s feathers blend in so well, much less EVER get a chance to see the egg it is incubating right there in the leaf litter as you walk by.

harris egg

Harris’s Hawk Eggs

By now you’ve probably already blurted out, yes, but BIRDS aren’t the ONLY ones that lay eggs!  Snakes will  hide theirs in wood holes, tortoises burrow under the ground to hide their ping pong shaped eggs.  Of course it’s a bit early to see the nesting turtles at South Padre Island bury their soft-shelled cluster of eggs in the sand.  Frog and fish eggs are spawned in the ponds.  But truly, most of  the millions of other eggs that this weekend are hiding in the nature parks are likely never to even be seen by humans.  They are our invertebrate eggs.  Butterfly eggs can look amazingly like a corn on the cob under magnification!  Some are elongated…most are in clusters.  In general, they are yellowish, and hidden on the UNDERSIDE of leaves, to avoid dehydration from the brutal sun. Even mammals…produce eggs.  We just don’t lay them.  In fact….the entire animal kingdom truly owes its introduction to life…to the magical protection of the egg.

Egg

Quinta Mazatlan’s Discovery Center will be open on Easter Saturday, March 30 between 10 am and Noon, and again from 1:30-3:30 with a display of nature’s eggs and a variety of bird nests.  Its forest trails will be open all day for your own discovery “nature egg hunt”.

But…good luck finding them!  These animals are pretty clever hiders!

Visit www.quintamazatlan.com for more information.