Big bird, pea-sized brain

It lurks in the Elaeagnus shrubs in my backyard. It throws leaf litter on the walkway leading to my front door. It sometimes attacks my suet feeder. Occasionally, it takes a bath:

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What’s more amazing to me about this rather plain-looking bird, is that it’s pea-sized brain is capable of producing an amazing number of unique songs. According to the 1981 edition of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, this songbird has “a repertoire of 2,400 distinctly different songs.” This information is derived from studies by Donald Kroodsma. According to Kroodsma, when a Brown Thrasher sings, some of the songs appear to be made up on the spot and never recur during the bird’s performance. But other songs are repeated, suggesting that the Brown Thrasher has a pretty good recall of them. How many different songs can you recall?

Here’s another thing I like to wonder about. What if you could take the Brown Thrasher brain and rewind it several thousand years to an earlier version of Brown Thrasher? What would you hear then? How would it differ from now? And suppose you could rewind even further back to a time when Brown Thrasher did not yet exist as “Brown Thrasher” but perhaps as one of the feathered dinosaurs? Did such a creature sing? Did the forest resound with its song and the songs of other feathered creatures?

I’d love to hear that ancient chorus but can only imagine it now. Yet I’m happy to hunt the modern descendants of those creatures. Birding back then would have been a thrill but at a risk to life and limb!


About birdingatbond

I love birding! And I live near Fred G. Bond Metro Park in Cary, NC.
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