Photo: Leonard Hantz/Audubon Photo Awards

California Thrasher

Toxostoma redivivum

Several kinds of dull gray-brown thrashers occur in the West, but this is the only one along the California coast. The bird's normal range is limited to California and a corner of Baja, but within that range it is quite common in the chaparral, even coming into brushy suburbs. It spends most of its time on the ground, walking and running with its tail often held high, stopping to dig in the dirt with its sickle-shaped bill.
Conservation status Has disappeared in many coastal areas with increasing urbanization, but still fairly widespread and common.
Family Mockingbirds and Thrashers
Habitat Chaparral, foothills, valley thickets, parks, gardens. Within its range, found in practically any lowland habitat with dense low brush. Most common in chaparral, also occurs in streamside thickets and in suburban neighborhoods that have enough vegetation. Extends into edges of desert regions, and in chaparral in mountains up to about 6,000'.
Several kinds of dull gray-brown thrashers occur in the West, but this is the only one along the California coast. The bird's normal range is limited to California and a corner of Baja, but within that range it is quite common in the chaparral, even coming into brushy suburbs. It spends most of its time on the ground, walking and running with its tail often held high, stopping to dig in the dirt with its sickle-shaped bill.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • adult
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly on the ground, using its heavy curved bill to flip leaf-litter aside and to dig in the soil.


Eggs

3-4, sometimes 2. Pale blue, evenly spotted with pale brown. Incubation is by both parents, about 14 days. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest after about 12-14 days, are unable to fly well for several more days. Male may care for young from 1st brood while female begins laying 2nd clutch. 2 broods per year, perhaps sometimes 3.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest after about 12-14 days, are unable to fly well for several more days. Male may care for young from 1st brood while female begins laying 2nd clutch. 2 broods per year, perhaps sometimes 3.

Diet

Mostly insects and berries. Feeds on a wide variety of insects, including ants, wasps, bees, beetles, caterpillars, moths, and many others. Also eats some spiders and centipedes. Berries and small fruits are important in diet, and eats seeds, acorns, and other plant material. Will come to bird feeders for miscellaneous scraps.


Nesting

Pairs may remain together on territory all year. Male sings to defend nesting territory, usually from top of shrub or tree; song often includes imitations of other birds. Nest: Placed in a dense shrub or extensive thickets, less than 10' above the ground, usually 2-4' up. Nest (built by both sexes) is a bulky open cup of sticks and twigs, lined with fine grass, weeds, rootlets, strips of bark, and other soft items.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Strictly permanent resident, rarely wandering even a short distance from breeding areas.

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Migration

Strictly permanent resident, rarely wandering even a short distance from breeding areas.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Song recalls that of a Northern Mockingbird, but harsher, more halting, and less repetitious. An expert mimic. Call a low harsh chuck and a throaty quip.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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