Photo: Rick & Nora Bowers/Vireo

Curve-billed Thrasher

Toxostoma curvirostre

Of the various thrashers in the southwestern deserts, the Curve-bill is the most familiar and most often seen. It makes itself more conspicuous than the rest, dashing about in the open, calling a loud whit-wheet! from the tops of mesquites. This thrasher readily moves into suburbs and cities in the Southwest as long as some native vegetation is planted there -- especially cholla cactus, its top choice for nest sites.
Conservation status Surveys suggest slight declines in Texas in recent decades. Farther west, still abundant.
Family Mockingbirds and Thrashers
Habitat Deserts, arid brush. Lives in Sonoran desert (with its varied vegetation) or in dry brushy country, mainly in lowlands. Avoids extreme desert situations with sparse plant life. Often in suburban neighborhoods, especially where cholla cactus grows. In southern Texas, lives in chaparral with prickly-pear cactus. Sometimes on open grassland around stands of cholla.
Of the various thrashers in the southwestern deserts, the Curve-bill is the most familiar and most often seen. It makes itself more conspicuous than the rest, dashing about in the open, calling a loud whit-wheet! from the tops of mesquites. This thrasher readily moves into suburbs and cities in the Southwest as long as some native vegetation is planted there -- especially cholla cactus, its top choice for nest sites.
Photo Gallery
  • adult, Western
  • adult, Eastern
  • adult, Western
  • adult, Eastern
Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly on the ground, using its heavy curved bill to dig in the soil, to flip leaf-litter aside, and to turn over small rocks and other items. When digging in hard dirt, braces its tail against the ground and pounds straight downward with heavy blows of bill.


Eggs

3, sometimes 2-4. Pale blue-green with tiny brown dots. Incubation is by both parents during the day, apparently only by female at night; incubation period 12-15 days. Young: Both parents feed young. If nest is in situation exposed to sun, female may spend much time shading the nestlings. Young leave nest about 14-18 days after hatching. 2 broods per year, sometimes 3.


Young

Both parents feed young. If nest is in situation exposed to sun, female may spend much time shading the nestlings. Young leave nest about 14-18 days after hatching. 2 broods per year, sometimes 3.

Diet

Mostly insects and berries. Feeds on a wide variety of insects and their larvae, including beetles, ants, grasshoppers, wasps, and many others; also spiders, centipedes, snails, and sowbugs. Also eats many berries, and feeds heavily on the fruits and seeds of cactus, including those of prickly-pear and saguaro.


Nesting

Pair may remain together all year on permanent territory. Especially in spring, male defends territory by singing. In courtship, male may follow female, giving a soft song. Nest: Most commonly placed in fork of cholla cactus, 3-5' above the ground. Sometimes in yucca, prickly-pear, or thorny shrub, or on top of mistletoe clump in shrub or low tree. May build on top of old Cactus Wren nest. May sometimes reuse same nest sites. Nest (probably built by both sexes) is bulky, loose cup of thorny twigs, lined with fine grasses, rootlets, feathers, animal hair.

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

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

Migration

Permanent resident. Rarely wanders out of range, mainly in fall and winter.

Download Our Bird Guide App

Migration

Permanent resident. Rarely wanders out of range, mainly in fall and winter.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Song a rapid series of musical notes and phrases; call a sharp, whistled whit-wheet!
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

Explore Similar Birds