The Curve-Billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

A common bird of the Southwestern U.S., the Curve-billed Thrasher will visit Tucson backyards that offer a natural desert scrub environment. The preferred habitat of Arizona’s Curve-billed Thrasher include cholla cactus, prickly pear, mesquite, and creosote.


The northern portion of the Curve-billed Thrasher’s range extends across the lower third of Arizona, then north through New Mexico and into Southeastern Colorado. The range then extends south through the western half of Texas to Mexico, and encompassing a large portion of Mexico.

Identifying The Curve-Billed Thrasher

Unique features of this thrasher make it an easy bird to identify, with one exception. First, the identifying features. Physical features include a long curved bill and a distinctive orange to yellow-orange eye. Quite often, birders identify this bird from its call long before they ever see it. Its call resembles the attention grabbing whistle of humans. A whistle described in birding circles as, whit-wheet. You’ll know it when you hear it. If you are like me, you will whistle back.

Behavior is another strong identifier of this bird. According to my observations, this bird prefers the lower six feet of air space. It actually spends much of its time on the ground where it forages for food, using its bill to sweep and flick away ground material to reveal insects. Running for a relatively long distance is another trait not shared by most other desert birds. It’s not unusual to see this bird run for a distance of fifty to a hundred feet.

As I wrote earlier, there is one exception that could cause you to make an incorrect identification. The Curve-billed Thrasher shares some similarities with the Bendshire’s Thrasher. The identification of the Bendshire’s will be covered in a future post, so in the meantime, keep a good field guide handy.