Photo: B. Steele/Vireo

Le Conte's Thrasher

Toxostoma lecontei

As pale as desert sand is this wraith of the arid saltbush flats. It seldom flies unless closely pressed, instead running about with great speed on the open ground, its tail cocked up above its back. For many years after its discovery, Le Conte's Thrasher was considered a rare bird, because it lives in desert so barren and forbidding that few people would have thought to seek birds there.
Conservation status Has disappeared from some areas where irrigation has converted desert to farmland. Still common in appropriate habitat.
Family Mockingbirds and Thrashers
Habitat Desert flats with sparse growth of saltbush. Lives in more open habitats than other thrashers, on dry flats with only scattered low shrubs. Found especially in areas of sparse saltbush, also on creosote bush flats in some areas; mainly where there are a few slightly larger mesquites or cholla cactus.
As pale as desert sand is this wraith of the arid saltbush flats. It seldom flies unless closely pressed, instead running about with great speed on the open ground, its tail cocked up above its back. For many years after its discovery, Le Conte's Thrasher was considered a rare bird, because it lives in desert so barren and forbidding that few people would have thought to seek birds there.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Forages almost entirely on the ground, walking and running rapidly on bare open soil. Finds much of its food by digging in the soil with its bill.


Eggs

3-4, sometimes 2. Pale greenish blue, lightly dotted with brown. Incubation is by both parents, about 15 days. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 13-17 days after hatching. 2 broods per year, perhaps rarely 3.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 13-17 days after hatching. 2 broods per year, perhaps rarely 3.

Diet

Mostly insects. Diet is not known in detail, but feeds mainly on insects, including grasshoppers, ants, beetles, and many others. Also eats spiders, centipedes, and other arthropods, and sometimes small lizards; eats a few berries and seeds.


Nesting

May mate for life. Pairs remain together at all seasons on permanent territories. In courtship, male may present female with twig or insect. Male sings to defend territory, beginning in mid-winter; nesting may begin in February or even January, but lasts until June in some areas. Nest: Usually placed less than 5' above the ground. Low, dense cholla cactus favored as nest sites; will also nest in saltbush, mesquite, or other low shrubs. Nest (built by both sexes) is a bulky open cup of thorny twigs, lined with rootlets, leaves, plant fibers, sometimes with softer inner lining of plant down.

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

Migration

Probably permanent resident, although it has been recorded in some parts of range only in breeding season.

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Migration

Probably permanent resident, although it has been recorded in some parts of range only in breeding season.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Song is a loud, rich melody recalling that of a California Thrasher, but less harsh and with infrequent repetition of phrases. Calls are a rising whit and tu-weep.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Mockingbirds and Thrashers Perching Birds

Le Conte's Thrasher

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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