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A curve-billed thrasher’s preferred destination for building a nest is in the fork of a cacti, 3 to 5 feet above the ground.

Coffee in hand, I am enjoying a beautiful Sunday morning in The Galisteo Basin Preserve. In the distance, I hear a sharp “whit-weet” call. I know it will only be a matter of minutes until a favorite visitor will arrive at my backyard feeding station.

He doesn’t disappoint and flies in to begin foraging on the ground for insects, seeds and berries. In a few minutes, he is at the feeder enjoying a breakfast of fruit my wife laid out for him. I get my breakfast later. There are strictly-adhered-to priorities.

What a beautiful bird with large, blurry, round spotting on his upper breast, long tail feathers, orangish eyes and a distinctive down-curved bill. Yes, it is a curve-billed thrasher.

His bill is a perfectly designed tool for hunting insects in desert canyons and brushlands. He uses his heavy, curved bill to dig in soil, to flip leaf litter and turn over small rocks. When digging in dirt, he braces his tail against the ground while pounding straight down with his bill, oftentimes digging a hole that is 2 inches in depth.

The curve-billed thrasher’s top choice for placement of a nest is in the fork of cholla cacti, 3 to 5 feet above the ground. Their nests are constructed of twigs, grasses and leaves, lined with horsehair, grass and rootlets.

Two broods per year are raised, sometimes three. One to five eggs are laid, light greenish blue with brown marks. Incubation (14 days) is by both parents during the day and only by the female at night. Boys night out. Both parents feed the young, who fledge about 14 days after hatching.

You will also often find curve-billed thrashers in suburban environments. With a native plant habitat, you may attract a nesting pair and enjoy these remarkable birds who are year-round residents of our state.

Ken Bunkowski and his son, Matt, are co-owners of Wild Birds Unlimited in Santa Fe and look forward to sharing the joy that birds bring into their lives.

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