After a dove, a woodpecker, and an owl in the last few days, it's time to get back to something more complex. How about another thrasher?
This one, Crissal, is a close relative of the California Thrasher. Both repeat phrases,
although not as religiously as does the Brown Thrasher. Both have deeply curved bills, more deeply-curved in fact than
the Curve-billed Thrasher, which shares the southwestern deserts of the U.S. with the Crissal. And like all the mimids, e.g.,
Northern Mockingbird, they are wonderfully garrulous. (As are the
laughing-thrushes of Asia, which were honored with the name Garrulax. ) Toxostoma thrashers are hard-to-see
skulkers most of the year, but in the spring they perch in plain view to sing, as this one did.
Speaking of the appropriateness of scientific names, "Crissal" refers to the crissum, which is the area around the cloaca.
The plumage in that area is called the undertail coverts. "Crissal" is an appropriate name for this thrasher, because
its undertail coverts are rusty-colored, contrasting sharply with the belly and tail. The scientific name also
reflects this reality, . . . now. If you have an old-enough birdbook, you will find the Crissal Thasher referred to as
Toxostoma dorsale. There is nothing special about the back of the Crissal Thrasher. What happened? A type-setter's
error, . . . which was then corrected, . . . which much later was reinstated because of its priority, . . . which finally was overruled.