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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sweet Georgia Brown

Seeing as it’s extremely common throughout its range, it’s no wonder the Northern Mockingbird has become the state bird of no less than six US states. But when you think about it, there’s nothing really special about the mockingbird. Sure it’s conspicuous, but ultimately rather monochromatic, and while its song is extremely variable, it becomes repetitive after a while. Nothing, however, can really compare to the intricate random garble you can hear just once a year around spring. Come that special time, Brown Thrashers will ignore their secretive tendencies and perch out in the open for the world to see.

Of course, it’s not nearly that time of year yet, nor was it when I took these photos. But when I visited the Rufous Hummingbird on UNC’s campus a couple weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to view a couple Brown Thrashers foraging out in the open, a far cry from the sepia blur I usually see flitting through thick hedges. When I stepped too close, one of the thrashers attempted to fly into a bush and conceal itself within the vegetation. However, being early March, the bush hadn’t yet sprouted leaves, and while the Brown Thrasher thought itself camouflaged, I could clearly see it through the maze of branches

Occasionally, the bird would mumble a couple notes of its song, perhaps in anticipation of the spring breeding season, but never would it move a muscle. From farther away, no one would suspect that the small bush held such a bird, mostly thanks an intricate pattern of streaking that lets it melt into its surroundings. Had I been a predator, I could have easily plucked the bird from the bush and made a meal of it, but being a birdwatcher I merely enjoyed.

So far, only Georgia has recognized the Brown Thrasher’s beauty and made it into a state bird. While I watched it, I was instantly reminded of that old Django Reinhardt tune which seems to perfectly encapsulate the bird. Even the melody is reminiscent of a thrasher singing from the top of a hedge in late April, all while maintaining an atmosphere reminiscent of its Southern home. Thanks to my latitude, I can enjoy Brown Thrashers year-round, and even in the dead of the coldest Carolina winter, I can look forward to seeing this exquisite Mimid do it’s thrasher thing. Thank God for small miracles. Oh, and by the way, the Rufous Hummingbird is still looking nice, and has molted even more of its gorget.

He’ll be looking his summer best in no time!

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