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A photo of a Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum)
Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Toxostoma rufum

The Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) is a robust songbird known for its bright reddish-brown plumage and complex vocalizations. It is a member of the Mimidae family, which includes the New World catbirds and mockingbirds. This bird is easily identified by its rufous upper parts, buffy underparts with dark streaks, and a long, rufous tail with paler corners. Its eyes are a striking yellow, and it possesses a long, downward-curving bill. Both sexes are similar in appearance, with juveniles resembling adults but with less distinct markings and olive-colored irises.

Identification Tips

When identifying the Brown Thrasher, look for its teardrop-shaped markings on a whitish chest, and its long tail which is often held upright. The bird's bill is brownish and curves downward, a feature that is particularly useful for foraging. In flight, observe its wingspan, which ranges from 29 to 33 cm, and its characteristic flight pattern, which includes rapid wingbeats followed by a glide.

Habitat

The Brown Thrasher is often found in woodland edges, thickets, and dense brush. It is adept at foraging in dry leaves on the ground and can also be found in agricultural and suburban areas, though it tends to avoid close proximity to human dwellings.

Distribution

This species is abundant throughout the eastern and central United States and southern and central Canada. It is the only thrasher species that lives primarily east of the Rockies and central Texas. The Brown Thrasher is a partial migrant, with birds in the northern part of their range moving southward for the winter.

Behaviour

The Brown Thrasher is known for its elusive nature, often flying low to avoid detection and hiding in thickets when disturbed. It is a territorial bird, especially during the breeding season, and will defend its nest aggressively, even against humans. The males are often observed singing from exposed perches to establish their territory.

Song & Calls

The male Brown Thrasher boasts an impressive song repertoire, with over 1,000 documented song types. Its vocalizations consist of melodious phrases, each typically repeated two or three times. The bird is also capable of mimicry, though not as extensively as the Northern Mockingbird.

Breeding

Brown Thrashers are generally monogamous and may mate-switch within a season. They build twiggy nests lined with grass and leaves, often in dense shrubs or low trees. The female lays 3 to 5 eggs with a blueish or greenish tint, sometimes marked with reddish-brown spots. Both parents are involved in incubating the eggs and feeding the young, with the female doing most of the incubating. Fledglings leave the nest about 9 to 13 days after hatching.

Similar Species

The Brown Thrasher can be confused with the Long-billed Thrasher and the Wood Thrush. The Long-billed Thrasher has a gray head and neck and a longer bill, while the Wood Thrush has dark spots on its underparts, dark eyes, a shorter tail, and a straighter bill.

Diet and Feeding

An omnivore, the Brown Thrasher's diet includes insects, berries, nuts, seeds, and occasionally small reptiles and amphibians. It forages by sweeping the forest floor with its bill and is known to use its bill to crack open hard-shelled nuts.

Conservation Status

The Brown Thrasher is currently listed as Least Concern by the IUCN. While it is widespread and common, there has been a decline in numbers in some areas due to habitat loss. However, the rate of decline is not significant enough to warrant a vulnerable status.

State Bird

The Brown Thrasher holds the honor of being the state bird of Georgia.

Brown Thrasher Sounds

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