This rather large 11-inch long thrasher is a year-round resident in New Mexico, except for the northwestern part of the state. The range also covers southern Arizona, west Texas, and into the eastern prairies of Colorado, and extends southward into Mexico. Distinguishing features are the orange or yellowish eye and the long curved bill. The back is a uniform brown and the breast has brown spots.
The species is found in arid desert habitats and scrublands where it forages on the ground, flipping over litter and digging into the soil to find insects and grubs, a variety of other invertebrates, as well as seeds and berries. The thrasher avoids barren desert and inhabits areas with some brushy plants or cacti, including low arroyos. They frequent suburban neighborhoods within their range and will visit feeders, also relishing fresh water in bird baths.
The cholla cactus is a favorite nesting site, but other cacti are used, as well as thorny shrubs. The nest is a cup built of twigs, grass, and lined with animal hair. The 2-4 nestlings are incubated for about two weeks and fledge after another two weeks. The female will spread her wings to shade nestlings during the heat of the day. The curve-billed thrasher is not migratory and pairs remain together on permanent territories. The song is a delightful variety of loud, sharp musical notes, augmented with squeaky chips, reminiscent of the brown thrasher, but without the repetition of phrases characteristic of that bird.
The Audubon Society reports that the Curve-billed thrasher population is stable and abundant in the west with some decline in recent decades in Texas.
Photos taken by James Taulman in Moriarty using Nikon P900 camera.