National Geographic : 1954 May
Pinions Opening Like a Parachute, Palmer's Thrasher Lands on a Perch Usually nesting in a dense cholla cactus, the Palmer's Thrasher is a familiar figure throughout the thorn-brush country of the Southwest. This re markable camera study shows the tail lifted stiffly while wing feathers, opening in louver fashion, begin the upstroke. -- The same bird lands in a flurry of feathers. red stripe down a gray breast, and red wings and tail (page 699). Pyrrhuloxias were not yet nesting, but they came regularly to the feeding station and perhaps were the favorite targets for our cameras. They are rather closely related to the cardinals, which, incidentally, have longer crests and more fiery-red plumage in Arizona than in the East. The curiously arched bill of the pyrrhuloxia and the elegant gray and red plumage give it a patrician appearance less evident in the rollicking car dinal. Its song, likewise, though similar, is more subdued, or perhaps one should say more refined. We managed to find a nest of one of the phainopeplas, containing a homely black skinned youngster, 10 feet up in a dense paloverde tree where photography was im possible. We waited until almost the last day of our stay, when we were sure the youngster had developed a strong food call so that his parents could find and feed him. Then we lowered the nest a few feet at a time between feedings, until we had it on a branch three feet from the ground and 10 feet in front of our photographic tent. The problem then was to provide a perch so conveniently placed that the phainopepla would use it in preference to all other perches before flying to the nest to feed the little one. After a few trials we found exactly the right spot for the perch and trained our cameras and lights on the two feet of space between the perch and the nest so as to catch the bird in mid-flight. The male bird seemed engrossed with an other female a hundred yards away and would not feed our baby; but the grayer female took good care of it and gave us many chances to catch her wings in the best position as she returned with a throat full of mistletoe berries (page 706).