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What is a Brown Thrasher?

By J.M. Densing
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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The brown thrasher is a large, reddish brown bird found primarily in the United States and Canada. It is the official state bird of Georgia. Its scientific name is Toxostoma rufum, and it belongs to the Mimidae family, making it related to mockingbirds and New World catbirds. It's an omnivorous bird that tends to hide in bushes and low trees, breeding in the spring and summer. Its song sometimes imitates other birds and tends to have quite a bit of repetition.

The brown thrasher is a reddish brown color over most of its body, with some lighter stripes on its wings. It has a light colored underside with scattered black streaks. It has a grayish face with yellow eyes and a long, curved beak. Its tail is about the same length as its body, with long, fanned out, reddish brown feathers. Adult birds usually reach an average length of about 11 to 12 inches (28 to 30.5 cm) with a wingspan that measures about 13 inches (33 cm).

The native area of the brown thrasher is located in the United States and Canada, mainly east of the Rocky Mountains. These birds are migratory, spending summers in the northern states, and are found year round in the southern states. They tend to prefer low trees, bushes and brush over more open areas, but will nest readily near civilization in rural and suburban regions.

The diet of the brown thrasher is omnivorous, meaning it eats both plants and animals. Preferred foods include beetles and other insects, small invertebrates such as worms, fruits, nuts, berries and seeds. The brown thrasher hunts for food by foraging during the day, using its long beak to sift through debris and leaves on the ground.

As a relative of the mockingbird, the song of the brown thrasher tends to include quite a bit of imitation. It will usually repeat a sound a two to three times in a row, pause, and then make a new sound, repeating it as well. They sing frequently, and are usually heard before they are seen since they often hide in low trees and bushes.

During breeding time, both the male and female brown thrasher work together to build the nest in a bush or low tree with lots of shelter from predators. It is usually shaped like cup, made out of twigs and sticks, and lined with grass. The female lays two to six pale blue eggs with brownish speckles, and both birds incubate the eggs for about 11 to 14 days. When the chicks hatch they are tiny and helpless, so both parents care for them until they are ready to leave the nest and fly, usually in less than two weeks.

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