At a Glance

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.
Mockingbirds and Thrashers, Perching Birds
Low Concern
Arroyos and Canyons, Desert and Arid Habitats, Forests and Woodlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
California, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Texas
Direct Flight, Rapid Wingbeats, Running

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

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


10 1/2 -12 1/2" (27-32 cm). Strongly curved bill, chestnut undertail coverts. Dark whisker mark, plain breast, eyes dull gold to brown.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Robin
Black, Gray, Red, White
Wing Shape
Tail Shape
Long, Rounded, Wedge-shaped

Songs and Calls

Call is a rolling chorilee, chorilee. Song consists of loud repeated phrases.
Call Pattern
Falling, Rising, Undulating
Call Type
Chirp/Chip, Trill, Whistle


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.



2-3, sometimes 4. Blue-green; unmarked, unlike those of other thrashers. Incubation is by both parents, about 14 days.


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.

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.


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.


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.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Still reasonably common, although population trends would be hard to detect.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Crissal Thrasher. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Crissal Thrasher

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.