BIRDS OF NEW ENGLAND AND EASTERN NEW YORK - HOFFMANN

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THRASHERS AND MOCKINGBIRDS: FAMILY MIMIDÆ

The Catbird, Brown Thrasher, and Mockingbird form a small family characterized by their comparatively slender figure and length of tail.


BROWN THRASHER. Toxostoma rufum
11.42 in.

Ad.— Upper parts reddish-brown; wing-bars white; bill long, slightly curved; tail very long; under parts white; breast, belly, and sides of the throat spotted with black.

Nest, of coarse twigs, on the ground, or in a low bush. Eggs, white, thickly speckled with reddish-brown.

The Brown Thrasher, or Brown Thrush, is a common summer resident of southern New England and the lower Hudson Valley; it becomes less common on the upland of central New England and is absent from all the less cultivated northern portions of New York and New England. It arrives toward the middle of April and remains till October. It frequents dry, scrubby growth, roadside thickets and overgrown pastures, scratching on the ground and slipping into the bushes when alarmed, with the ease of its companion the Chewink; it may often be seen running in the roads. When a pair have a nest or a young bird hidden in a thicket, they manifest great excitement at the approach of an intruder, uttering a loud smack and a mournful ti-yoo-00, or a puffing or hissing sound. The yellow eye seems to glare at such times. The male sings from a high perch, often the uppermost spray of a tall tree, with tail depressed. The song is the most brilliant performance given by our New England birds, a succession of finely executed phrases, very often in pairs, and of great variety. Thoreau's phrasing of it is, “Drop it, drop it, cover it up, cover it up, pull it up, pull it up, pull it up."

A Brown Thrasher is readily told by the reddish-brown color of its upper parts and by its long tail.


[GRAY] CATBIRD. Galeoscoptes carolinensis [Dumetella Carolinenses]
8.94 in.

Ad.— Entire body slaty gray, except the head and tail, which are black; feathers under base of tail chestnut.

Nest, of sticks, in a thick bush. Eggs, glossy greenish-blue.

The Catbird is a common summer resident of New England and New York, except in the mountainous northern portions, though it is found along large streams even in northern Maine. It arrives in May and lingers into October. It frequents shrubbery and thickets, especially the tangles of vines and bushes near water. It is fond of fruit, and may often be seen in midsummer with a raspberry in its bill. Its ordinary call-note, from which it gets its name, is familiar; it is, perhaps, more snarling than a cat's mew. It utters, besides, a mellow chuck, and occasionally a grating chatter, kak kak kak. Its song is very similar to that of the Thrasher, but it is not so vigorous, and though it undoubtedly does contain fine passages, it is marred by the constant introduction of harsh phrases. When singing, the Catbird often sits on some high spray, with tail depressed; when it hops along the ground or on a fence, the tail is either cocked at an angle or thrown jauntily from side to side. The bird always has an alert, saucy air.


[NORTHERN] MOCKINGBIRD. Mimus polyglottos

10.50 in.

Ad.— Upper parts ash-gray; wings blackish, with a broad white three inner pairs of tail-feathers black, fourth and fifth pairs white, edged with black, outer pair white; under parts grayish-white.

Nest, of twigs, weed-stalks, etc., in a thick bush or low tree. Eggs, bluish or greenish, spotted with reddish-brown.

The Mockingbird is a rare visitant in southern New England and the lower Hudson Valley; there are several records of its breeding in New England, notably near Springfield. Single birds are not infrequently seen, especially in the fall or early spring; some of these may, of course, be escaped cage-birds. An observer must guard carefully against taking a Shrike for a Mockingbird; the two birds resemble each other somewhat in figure and coloration, but the Shrike in adult plumage has black wings and tail and a black stripe through the eye, while the Mockingbird has brown wings and tail and a gray head. If the bill can be examined at close range, the two birds can be readily distinguished; the Shrike's is like a Hawk's, thick and hooked; the Mockingbird's is like a Catbird's, long and rather slender, with no hook.

[The mockingbird is a extremely common bird on Long Island and, I would say, the whole region, nowadays.]


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