Photo: Brian E. Small/Vireo

Crissal Thrasher

Toxostoma crissale

This big dark thrasher of the desert regions manages to stay out of sight most of the time, hiding in thickets. At some seasons its presence is revealed mainly by its rolling callnotes, heard especially at dawn and dusk. The observer who seeks it may find the Crissal Thrasher foraging on the ground under dense cover, using its long curved bill to dig in the desert soil. In spring, males move up to higher perches to sing their musical but disjointed song.
Conservation status Still reasonably common, although population trends would be hard to detect.
Family Mockingbirds and Thrashers
Habitat Dense brush along desert streams, mesquite thickets. Habitat varies; in Sonoran desert found only in the densest mesquite thickets along washes, but in Chihuahuan desert it lives in sparse brush in open areas. Also occurs in dense chaparral, among manzanita and other scrub, in the southwestern mountains.
This big dark thrasher of the desert regions manages to stay out of sight most of the time, hiding in thickets. At some seasons its presence is revealed mainly by its rolling callnotes, heard especially at dawn and dusk. The observer who seeks it may find the Crissal Thrasher foraging on the ground under dense cover, using its long curved bill to dig in the desert soil. In spring, males move up to higher perches to sing their musical but disjointed song.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Forages almost entirely on the ground under dense brush; finds much of its food by digging in the soil or among debris with its heavy, curved bill. Perches in bushes to eat berries.


Eggs

2-3, sometimes 4. Blue-green; unmarked, unlike those of other thrashers. Incubation is by both parents, about 14 days. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 11-13 days after hatching, are unable to fly well for several more days. 2 broods per year.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 11-13 days after hatching, are unable to fly well for several more days. 2 broods per year.

Diet

Mostly insects, some berries. Feeds on a wide variety of insects, including beetles, grasshoppers, ants, caterpillars, and many others; also spiders, centipedes, and other arthropods. Sometimes eats small lizards. Berries and small fruits make up an important minority of diet.


Nesting

Pairs may remain together on territory at all seasons. Males sing in spring to defend nesting territory. When cowbirds lay eggs in the nest of this species, the adult thrashers generally throw the cowbird eggs out of the nest immediately. Nest site is well concealed in dense low growth, often in mesquites but also in other shrubs such as willows, greasewood, saltbush, even exotic saltcedar, usually 2-8' above the ground. Nest (built by both parents) is a bulky open cup of thorny twigs, lined with softer materials such as fine grass, weeds, bark fibers, and sometimes feathers.

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

Migration

Mostly a permanent resident, but a few may appear in fall and winter away from breeding areas.

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Migration

Mostly a permanent resident, but a few may appear in fall and winter away from breeding areas.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Call is a rolling chorilee, chorilee. Song consists of loud repeated phrases.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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