Brown Thrasher

Common Name: Brown Thrasher.

Scientific Name: Toxostoma Rufum.

What to look for?  Handsome, cinnamon-brown, medium-sized songbird with long proportions. The Brown Thrasher has long, brown sturdy legs well suited to “thrashing” about on the ground. Its long tail is reddish-brown and characteristically cocked upward. Its bill is also long and slightly curved. The Brown Thrasher has cinnamon-brown feathers on its back and wings and cream‐colored feathers with rust‐red streaks or stripes on its breast. There are two, white and black bars on each wing. Their eyes are yellow. Males and females are alike in size and coloration. Juveniles are paler with dark eyes.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? You can find Brown Thrashers around here from March into late fall. They are secretive and especially hard to spot in the dense shrubs that they favor. You may find them “thrashing” about on the ground as they forage for food. They may show up on the ground under bird feeders or perch in trees while they sing. But you better look quick as it darts from branch to branch – never staying in one place for long.

How big are they? The Brown Thrasher averages approximately 10 inches in length. And their wingspan is nearly 12 inches. They weigh in at around three ounces.

What are their flight patterns? Generally, Brown Thrashers are slow, short-distance fliers. Short flights are made with several rapid wing beats alternated with brief periods with wings pulled to sides (“Flap-bounding”).

How else do they behave? Brown Thrashers spend most of their time near or on the ground where they can be seen walking, running, or hopping. When they are frightened or disturbed, they get to the ground and dart into dense cover. Both behaviors are like what you may see in a Killdeer. Brown Thrashers are usually territorial and compete with other birds for habitat and nesting areas. This competition results in hostile encounters with other birds.

What’s for dinner? Almost anything! Brown Thrashers are omnivores. omnivore brown Thrashers eat mostly insects and other arthropods along with some fruits, seeds, and nuts. They typically feed on the ground, sweeping their bills through the leaf litter and soil with quick, sideways motions.

Where do they take up residence? Brown Thrashers reside across the U.S. from the Great Plains east, down into portions of Texas and throughout, the southeastern U. S. They are also found across southeastern Canada. The Brown Thrasher will inhabit woodland edges, thickets, hedgerows and brushy riversides and parks. They rarely venture far from thick undergrowth into which they can easily retreat.

When and where do they breed and nest? Brown Thrashers breed in the southern region from February to March and in the northern region from May to June. They breed across northern half of the U.S. and north into southern Canada. They build their nest generally a few feet above the ground in a dense shrub, vine tangle, or low tree or on the ground under dense cover. Brown Thrashers lay three to five eggs each breeding season. Incubation takes about two weeks; nestlings take up to two weeks to fledge. And they are on their own approximately three weeks later.

Where do they migrate? Here in Kane County, Brown Thrashers do migrate. They arrive in late March or early April, staying through spring and summer.  They usually migrate south late in fall. In the winter, Brown Thrashers move out of the northern part of their breeding range – northern U.S. - and into the southeastern U.S. or southwest into Texas. Brown Thrashers may resident year-round in the southern U.S. They migrate at night- either individually or in small groups.

What is their conservation status? There is low concern. Brown Thrashers are not listed as threatened or endangered in any part of their range. They are common birds, although their numbers have been declining for the last several decades. According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, between 1966 and 2015 populations declined by 41%. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 4.9 million.

Do they make any interesting sounds? The Brown Thrasher has a lush resounding voice. They are among the most vocal birds and often mimic other species. Like catbirds and mockingbirds, they are mimics with a seemingly endless train of melodies of its own and of other birds. Brown Thrashers typically sing phrases twice before moving on. The call is a bold "smack" or "churr." Here is a link to the sounds of the Brown Thrasher.

Interesting Facts About the Brown Thrasher:

  • Brown Thrashers have the largest repertoire of songs of all the North American birds and a song list approaching 3,000 (and none from Amazon Music!).

  • They are the official state bird of Georgia.

  • The inspiration for the name of the National Hockey League team, the Atlanta Thrashers (now extinct; migrated to Canada to become Winnipeg Jets).

  • The name "thrasher" may come from the bird's habit of thrashing ground litter with its bill.

  • The Brown Thrasher has a large breeding range, estimated at 1,530,000 square kilometers.

  • An aggressive defender of its nest, the Brown Thrasher is known to strike people and dogs.

  • Brown Thrashers are the largest common host of parasitic Brown-headed Cowbirds, but often rejecting cowbird eggs that are laid in their nests.

  • The oldest Brown Thrasher was almost 13 years old.

For more information on the Brown Thrasher and sources of information used in this blog (these are the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit All About Birds, Audubon Society, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, University of Michigan’s Animal Diversity Web and National Geographic. And the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a wonderful source of information for anyone interested in learning more about birds.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, plants and insects. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.

 

Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!