Volume 2: The Biology of a Desert Apparition: LeConte’s Thrasher (Toxostoma lecontei)


by Jay M. Sheppard

Life history studies are now an uncommon published resource in ornithology. Western Field Ornithologists announces the second monograph in their Studies of Western Birds series.

LeConte’s Thrasher—a shy, poorly-known, and little-studied species—is found in the hottest and driest deserts of the American Southwest and northwestern Mexico. Mr. Sheppard has spent years studying this enigmatic bird. This monograph gives the results of his study that included 350 color-marked thrashers studied near Maricopa, California. The systematics of the genus Toxostoma and the taxonomy of T. lecontei are examined.

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A detailed discussion of this thrasher’s distribution, ecology and conservation are followed by a thorough study of its general life history. The latter includes extensive data on reproduction, population dynamics, reproductive output, behavior, molt, development, vocalizations, and feeding and prey analysis. Dispersal and other movements, pair bonds, survival, and territoriality were studied in a color-marked population at Maricopa, California. Detailed notes and records from hundreds of field observers and other sources were utilized to provide as complete a life history and distribution of this species as currently possible. Future research needs are enumerated. Mr. Sheppard is a now retired ornithologist of the US Fish & Wildlife Service and resides in Laurel, Maryland.