Photo: G. McElroy/Vireo

Brown Thrasher

Toxostoma rufum

The big, foxy-red Brown Thrasher is a familiar bird over much of the east. Sometimes it forages boldly on open lawns; more often it scoots into dense cover at any disturbance, hiding among the briar tangles and making loud crackling callnotes. Although the species spends most of its time close to the ground, the male Brown Thrasher sometimes will deliver its rich, melodious song of doubled phrases from the top of a tall tree.
Conservation status Declining numbers have been noted in some regions; the species remains widespread and common in most areas.
Family Mockingbirds and Thrashers
Habitat Thickets, brush, shrubbery, thorn scrub. Breeds in areas of dense low growth, especially thickets around edges of deciduous or mixed woods, shrubby edges of swamps, or undergrowth in open pine woods; also in suburban neighborhoods with many shrubs and hedges. Winters in similar areas or in any habitat with dense brush.
The big, foxy-red Brown Thrasher is a familiar bird over much of the east. Sometimes it forages boldly on open lawns; more often it scoots into dense cover at any disturbance, hiding among the briar tangles and making loud crackling callnotes. Although the species spends most of its time close to the ground, the male Brown Thrasher sometimes will deliver its rich, melodious song of doubled phrases from the top of a tall tree.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • fledgling
  • adult
  • adult
  • adult male
Feeding Behavior

Does much foraging on the ground, using its bill to flip dead leaves aside or dig in the soil as it rummages for insects. Perches in shrubs and trees to eat berries. Will crack open acorns by pounding them with its bill.


Eggs

4, sometimes 3-5, rarely 2-6. Pale blue to bluish white, finely dotted with reddish brown. Incubation is by both parents, about 11-14 days. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 9-13 days after hatching. 2 broods per year, perhaps sometimes 3.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 9-13 days after hatching. 2 broods per year, perhaps sometimes 3.

Diet

Varied, includes insects, berries, nuts. More than half of diet is insects, including beetles, caterpillars, true bugs, grasshoppers, cicadas, and many others; also eats spiders, sowbugs, earthworms, snails, crayfish, and sometimes lizards and frogs. Berries and small fruits also very important in diet, especially in fall and winter, and eats many nuts and seeds, particularly acorns.


Nesting

Male defends territory by singing loudly from prominent perches. In courtship, male approaches female, singing softly; either bird may pick up leaves or sticks, and present them to the other bird. Nest: Usually placed 2-7' above the ground in a dense shrub, vine tangle, or low tree. Sometimes on the ground under dense cover, or as high as 12' up. Nest (built by both sexes) is a bulky structure, with foundation of sticks supporting a loose cup of twigs, leaves, weeds, grass, bark fibers, lined with finer materials such as grass or rootlets.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Permanent resident in parts of south; mostly migratory in north, but small numbers may remain far north around feeders or in thickets with many berries. Strays may appear well west of normal range during fall, winter, and spring.

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Migration

Permanent resident in parts of south; mostly migratory in north, but small numbers may remain far north around feeders or in thickets with many berries. Strays may appear well west of normal range during fall, winter, and spring.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A variety of musical phrases, each repeated twice; call a sharp smack!
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

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