Overview

Brief Summary

Toxostoma rufum

A large (11 ½ inches) songbird, the Brown Thrasher is most easily identified by its rusty-brown back, speckled breast, long rounded tail, and long curved bill. This species may be distinguished from the related Long-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma longirostre) by that species’ paler plumage and from several species of brown New World thrushes by their smaller sizes and shorter tails. Male and female Brown Thrashers are similar to one another in all seasons. The Brown Thrasher breeds across much of the eastern United States and southern Canada. Northerly-breeding populations migrate to the southeastern U.S.and east Texas for the winter. Populations breeding further south are non-migratory. Brown Thrashers breed in a variety of semi-open habitats with large quantities of groundcover, including forest edges, grasslands, and shrubby fields. Birds that migrate south in winter utilize similar habitat types as they do on their breeding grounds further north. Brown Thrashers eat a variety of plant and animal foods, including insects, spiders, berries, and fruits. In appropriate habitat, Brown Thrashers may be seen foraging for food on the ground or in the branches of low bushes and shrubs. A close relative of the mockingbirds, this species is also known for its ability to mimic other birds, and may be identified aurally by its habit of repeating each mimicked bird vocalization twice in a row before moving on (for comparison, the Northern Mockingbird repeats each vocalization three or more times, while the Gray Catbird, another mimic, switches vocalizations for each refrain). Brown Thrashers are primarily active during the day.

Threat Status: Least concern

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Distribution

occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Breeding

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: BREEDING: southeastern Alberta across south Canada to New Brunswick, south to eastern Texas, Gulf Coast, and southern Florida, west to eastern Colorado. NON-BREEDING: eastern New Mexico, eastern Oklahoma, western Tennesse, and southern Maryland south to southeastern Texas, Gulf Coast, and southern Florida.

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Geographic Range

Brown thrashers are found from southeastern Canada through eastern, central, and southeastern United States. They are found in the Nearctic region. Brown thrashers are the only Toxostoma species east of the Rocky Mountains and central Texas. During the summer brown thrashers are found from southern Canada south to east central Texas. Brown thrashers migrate short distances between the summer and winter seasons. They migrate at night. Birds in the northern part of their range migrate into the southern parts of their range.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Howard, R., A. Moore. 1991. A Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. San Diego, CA: Academic Press Inc..
  • Robbins, C., B. Bruun, H. Zim. 1983. A guide to filed identification birds of North America. New York, New York: Western Publishing Company, Inc..
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Geographic Range

Brown thrashers are found from southeastern Canada through eastern, central, and southeastern United States. Brown thrashers are the only thrasher species east of the Rocky Mountains and central Texas. During the breeding season brown thrashers primarily inhabit areas of southern Canada south to east central Texas. Migration is over short distances and at night. In winter, these birds migrate from the northern parts of their range into the southern parts of their range.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Howard, R., A. Moore. 1991. A Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. San Diego, CA: Academic Press Inc..
  • Robbins, C., B. Bruun, H. Zim. 1983. A guide to filed identification birds of North America. New York, New York: Western Publishing Company, Inc..
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Adult brown thrashers have reddish upperparts and whitish underparts, with a long, black tail. They have long, straight bills and yellow eyes. Males and females are alike in size and color. The young appear the same as adults, except their upperparts are spotted and their eyes are gray.

Range mass: 89 (high) g.

Average mass: 68.8 g.

Range length: 235 to 305 mm.

Range wingspan: 94 to 111 mm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

  • Dunning, J. 1993. CRC handbook of avian body masses. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
  • Godfrey, W. 1986. The Birds of Canada. The Birds of Canada, Rev. ed. Edition. Ottawa, ON: National Museum of Natural Science.
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Physical Description

Adults have rufous upperparts and white underparts with a long, black tail. They have long, straight bills and yellow eyes. Males and females are alike in size and coloration. They are from 23.5 cm to 30.5 cm long, with wingspans of 9.4 to 11.1 cm long. The young appear the same except their upperparts are spotted and their eyes are gray. There are two sub-species, brown thrashers (T. rufum rufum) and long-billed thrashers (T.rufum longirostre). Long-billed thrashers are unique in their dull upperparts, gray head, orange eye, and long, straight bill.

Range mass: 89 (high) g.

Average mass: 68.8 g.

Range length: 235 to 305 mm.

Range wingspan: 94 to 111 mm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

  • Dunning, J. 1993. CRC handbook of avian body masses. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
  • Godfrey, W. 1986. The Birds of Canada. The Birds of Canada, Rev. ed. Edition. Ottawa, ON: National Museum of Natural Science.
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Size

Length: 29 cm

Weight: 69 grams

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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: Thickets and bushy areas in deciduous forest clearings and forest edge, shrubby areas and gardens; in migration and winter also in scrub (AOU 1983). BREEDING: Nests on ground under small bush or as high as about 4 m in tree, shrub, vine.

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Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Brown thrashers are found in warm, dry habitats, such as warm forest edges and dense thickets. They are also found in suburban and agricultural areas.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; scrub forest

Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural ; riparian

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Brown thrashers are found in warm, dry habitats, such as warm forest edges and dense thickets. They are also found in suburban and agricultural areas.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; scrub forest

Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural ; riparian

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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Breeding populations north of southeastern U.S. move south for winter. Arrives in New England in late April (Terres 1980).

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Eats insects and other invertebrates and small fruits, also some small amphibians and reptiles; forages on or near ground (Terres 1980).

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Food Habits

Brown thrashers eat insects, mainly Coleoptera and other Arthropoda, fruits, and nuts. They forage for food on the ground in leaf litter below trees and shrubs. These birds sweep the soil and leaf litter with rapid side-to-side movements of their beak. After sweeping a few times, they probe the soil and litter with their beaks.

Animal Foods: insects

Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

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Food Habits

Brown thrashers eat insects, primarily beetles and other arthropods, fruits, and nuts. They forage for food on the ground in leaf litter below trees and shrubs. These birds sweep the soil and leaf litter with rapid side-to-side movements that scatter leaves. After sweeping a few times, they will probe the soil and litter with their beaks.

Animal Foods: insects

Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Primary Diet: omnivore

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Ecosystem roles include competition with other birds for nesting sites and resources. Also these birds are prey for many snakes and other birds.

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

  • ticka (Ixodes_dentatus)
  • hematophagous larvae (Protocalliphora_metallica,_P._shannoni)

  • Equinox (Oxford) Ltd. 1985. Mockingbirds. Pp. 360-361 in C Perrins, A Middleton, eds. The Encyclopedia of Birds. New York: Facts On File Publications.
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Predation

Gray catbirds (Dumetella_carolinensis) have been documented visiting brown thrasher nests to break the eggs. Two hypotheses are proposed to explain this heterospecific egg destruction behavior: resource competition and egg predation. These birds both live in shrubs and have similar timing in breeding. They compete for the resources of this habitat. Once the catbird has broken the egg, usually it will consume the contents. This egg consumption is consistent with the proposed egg predation hypothesis. The eggs of brown thrashers are also preyed on by many species of snakes. Adults and nestlings are preyed on by falcons.

To respond to predation, brown thrashers have a few natural defenses. Adults are aggressive and often chase predators from the nest. Adults will use their bill to hit predators, these are large birds and they can cause significant damage to small and medium-sized predators. Other defenses include flapping theirwings and vocalizations.

Gray catbirds sometimes visit brown thrasher nests and break and eat the eggs. The eggs of brown thrashers are also preyed on by many species of snakes. Adults and nestlings are preyed on by falcons.

Brown thrashers are aggressive and often chase predators from their nests. Adults will use their bills to hit predators, they also flap their wings at predators and use alarm calls.

Known Predators:

  • gray catbirds (Dumetella_carolinensis)
  • eastern yellowbelly racers (Coluber_constrictor)
  • common garter snakes (Thamnophis_sirtalis)
  • Great Plains rat snakes (Elaphe_emoryi)
  • common king snakes (Lampropeltis_getula),
  • milk snakes (Lampropeltis_triangulum)
  • prarie king snakes (Lampropeltis_calligaster)
  • black rat snake (Elaphe_obsoleta)
  • bull snakes (Pituophis)
  • domestic cats (Felis_silvestris)
  • peregrine falcons (Falco_peregrinus)

  • Rivers, J., B. Sandercock. 2004. Predation by gray catbird on brown thrasher eggs. The Southwestern Naturalist, 49/1: 101-103.
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Ecosystem Roles

Ecosystem roles include competition with other birds for nesting sites and resources. Also these birds are prey for many snakes and other birds.

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

  • Equinox (Oxford) Ltd. 1985. Mockingbirds. Pp. 360-361 in C Perrins, A Middleton, eds. The Encyclopedia of Birds. New York: Facts On File Publications.
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Predation

Gray catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis) have been documented visiting brown thrasher nests to break the eggs. Two hypotheses are proposed to explain this heterospecific egg destruction behavior: resource competition and egg predation. These birds both live in shrubs and have similar timing in breeding. They compete for the resources of this habitat. Once the catbird has broken the egg, usually it will consume the contents. This egg consumption is consistent with the proposed egg predation hypothesis. The eggs of brown thrashers are also preyed on by many species of snakes. Adults and nestlings are preyed on by falcons.

To respond to predation, brown thrashers have a few natural defenses. Adults are aggressive and often chase predators from the nest. Adults will use their bill to hit predators, these are large birds and they can cause significant damage to small and medium-sized predators. Other defenses include flapping theirwings and vocalizations.

Known Predators:

  • Rivers, J., B. Sandercock. 2004. Predation by gray catbird on brown thrasher eggs. The Southwestern Naturalist, 49/1: 101-103.
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Known predators

Toxostoma rufum (red-eyed vireo, yellow warbler, gold finch, catbird, brown thrasher, towhee, robin) is prey of:
Accipiter striatus
Accipiter cooperii

Based on studies in:
Canada: Manitoba (Forest)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • R. D. Bird, Biotic communities of the Aspen Parkland of central Canada, Ecology, 11:356-442, from p. 406 (1930).
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Known prey organisms

Toxostoma rufum (red-eyed vireo, yellow warbler, gold finch, catbird, brown thrasher, towhee, robin) preys on:
Insecta

Based on studies in:
Canada: Manitoba (Forest)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • R. D. Bird, Biotic communities of the Aspen Parkland of central Canada, Ecology, 11:356-442, from p. 406 (1930).
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General Ecology

Nest predation accounted for 54% of nest failures in Kansas (Murphy and Fleischer 1986).

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Brown thrashers communicate mainly with calls. They copy the sounds of other birds and are known for their beautiful, complex songs. Males have many kinds of songs, more than any other kind of North American bird, as many as 1100 types of songs. At young ages, brown thrashers use "alarm noises". They also use their vision and sense of touch to find and handle food.

Communication Channels: acoustic

Other Communication Modes: mimicry

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Communication and Perception

Brown thrashers communicate mainly with vocalizations. They use mimicry extensively as well and are well known for their songs. Males have the largest documented song repertoire of all North American bird. This includes over 1100 types of songs. At young ages, birds most commonly use "alarm noises". Primary modes of perception include visual and tactile. Brown thrashers use mainly vision to find food and their tactile abilities to search for and manipulate food.

Communication Channels: acoustic

Other Communication Modes: mimicry

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Only about 35% of brown thrashers live through their first and second years, about 50% between second and third years, and 75% between the third and fourth years. Diseases, parasites, and cold exposure can kill these birds. The longest known lifespan in the wild is twelve years and in captivity, ten to twelve years.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
12 (high) years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
10 to 12 years.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
11.34 to 17.61 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
14.14 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
12 years.

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Lifespan/Longevity

Year-to-year survival is age dependent for brown thrashers. Survival rate is approximately 35% for their first and second years, 50% between second and third years, and 75% between third and fourth years. Limitations to lifespan include disease (for example Salmonella tymphimurium), parasitism, and sometimes exposure to cold temperatures. The longest known lifespan in the wild is twelve years and in captivity, ten to twelve years.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
12 (high) years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
10 to 12 years.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
11.34 to 17.61 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
14.14 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
12 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 12.8 years (wild)
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Reproduction

Clutch size 3-6 (usually 4). Sometimes 2 broods per year. Incubation 11-14 days, by both sexes. Young tended by both parents, leave nest in 9-13 days. May find new mate for second nesting. See Murphy and Fleischer (1986).

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When male brown thrashers arrive at the breeding grounds in spring they establish a territory. Breeding begins in February and March in the southern parts of their range and from May to June in the north. Once the male and female form a bond, they begin to build a nest. Mates find each other with calls, most commonly using a call similar to a "tick" or "tchuck".

Mating System: monogamous

Brown thrashers start breeding from February to June, depending on the area where they are found. Brown thrashers lay 3 to 5 eggs each breeding season. Incubation takes about two weeks, once the eggs have hatched, nestlings take from 9 to 13 days to fledge. Independence is reached 17 to 19 days later.

Breeding interval: Brown thrashers breed once yearly.

Breeding season: Breeding season varies geographically. Southern populations breed in February and March, northern populations birds breed in May and June

Range eggs per season: 3 to 5.

Range time to hatching: 11 to 14 days.

Range fledging age: 9 to 13 days.

Range time to independence: 17 to 19 days.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

Average eggs per season: 4.

Both parents incubate, brood, and feed nestlings. They incubate by sitting tightly on the nest and slip off when disturbed. During the incubation period, the female does the majority of the incubating. Both parents feed the chicks.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

  • Cavitt, J., C. Haas. 2000. Toxostoma rufum brown thrasher. Pp. 1-28 in The Birds of North America, Vol. 14, 541-560 Edition. Philadelphia, PA: The Birds of North America, Inc..
  • Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, D. Wheye. 1988. The birder's handbook a field guide to the natural history of north american birds. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster Inc..
  • Fergus, C. 2004. "Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird and Brown Thrasher" (On-line). Pennsylvania Game Commision. Accessed November 12, 2006 at http://www.pgc.state.pa.us/pgc/cwp/view.asp?a=458&q=150398.
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When males arrive at the breeding grounds they establish a territory. In the southern parts of their range breeding starts in February and March, in the northern parts, breeding starts in May and June. Soon after this, pairs are formed and they begin to build a nest. Mates find each other with calls, most commonly using a call similar to a "tick" or "tchuck". Once the bond is formed and the nest is built, the pair will mate.

Mating System: monogamous

Brown thrasher breeding seasons vary with geographic region. Birds in the southern region breed from February to March; while those in the northern region breed from May to June. Brown thrashers lay three to five eggs each breeding season. Incubation takes about two weeks, once the eggs have hatched, nestlings take from 9 to 13 days to fledge. Independence is reached 17 to 19 days later.

Breeding interval: Brown thrashers breed once yearly.

Breeding season: Breeding season varies geographically. Southern populations breed in February and March, northern populations birds breed in May and June

Range eggs per season: 3 to 5.

Range time to hatching: 11 to 14 days.

Range fledging age: 9 to 13 days.

Range time to independence: 17 to 19 days.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

Average eggs per season: 4.

Both parents incubate, brood, and feed nestlings. They incubate by sitting tightly on the nest and slip off when disturbed. During the incubation period, the female does the majority of the incubating. Both parents feed the chicks.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

  • Cavitt, J., C. Haas. 2000. Toxostoma rufum brown thrasher. Pp. 1-28 in The Birds of North America, Vol. 14, 541-560 Edition. Philadelphia, PA: The Birds of North America, Inc..
  • Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, D. Wheye. 1988. The birder's handbook a field guide to the natural history of north american birds. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster Inc..
  • Fergus, C. 2004. "Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird and Brown Thrasher" (On-line). Pennsylvania Game Commision. Accessed November 12, 2006 at http://www.pgc.state.pa.us/pgc/cwp/view.asp?a=458&q=150398.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Toxostoma rufum

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 8 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

AACCGATGATTATTTTCAACCAACCACAAAGATATCGGCACCCTCTACCTAATCTTCGGCGCATGAGCCGGAATAGTCGGTACCGCCCTA---AGCCTCCTTATTCGAGCAGAACTAGGCCAACCTGGAGCCCTCCTAGGTGAC---GACCAAGTCTACAACGTAGTCGTCACAGCACATGCCTTCGTAATAATCTTCTTTATGGTTATGCCAATTATGATCGGAGGATTTGGAAACTGACTAGTCCCCCTAATA---ATTGGAGCCCCAGACATAGCATTCCCACGAATAAACAACATGAGCTTCTGACTACTCCCACCATCCTTCCTACTACTACTAGCATCTTCCACAGTAGAGTCAGGAGTAGGAACAGGCTGAACTGTATACCCACCCCTAGCTGGTAACCTAGCCCACGCCGGAGCTTCAGTAGACCTA---GCTATCTTCTCCCTACACCTAGCTGGTATCTCTTCCATCCTAGGAGCTATCAACTTCATTACAACAGCAATCAACATAAAACCACCCGCCCTCTCACAATACCAAACCCCACTATTTGTTTGATCAGTACTAATCACCGCGGTATTACTCCTCCTATCCCTTCCTGTACTCGCCGCA---GGCATTACCATGCTCCTTACAGACCGCAATCTCAACACCACCTTCTTCGACCCAGCAGGAGGAGGAGACCCAGTACTATATCAACACCTTTTCTGATTCTTCGGCCATCCAGAAGTCTACATCCTAATCCTCCCAGGATTCGGAATAATCTCCCACGTAGTAGCCTACTACTCAGGAAAAAAA---GAACCATTCGGCTACATAGGAATAGTATGAGCCATACTATCCATTGGTTTCCTAGGCTTCATCGTCTGAGCCCATCACATGTTCACAGTAGGAATAGACGTAGACACCCGAGCCTACTTTACATCCGCTACCATAATCATTGCCATTCCAACAGGAATCAAAGTATTCAGCTGACTA---GCAACA
-- end --

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Toxostoma rufum

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 7
Specimens with Barcodes: 12
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5B - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
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Brown thrashers are not listed as threatened or endangered in any part of their range. No management actions are known to increase or maintain populations. Dangers include pesticides, collisions with structures, and some degradation of habitats. These effects have yet to become harmful enough to cause concern.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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Brown thrashers are not listed as threatened or endangered in any part of their range. No management actions are known to increase or maintain populations. Dangers include pesticides, collisions with structures, and some degradation of habitats. These effects have yet to become harmful enough to cause concern.

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Population

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Brown thrashers can be significant pests in fruit orchards and crop fields.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Brown thrashers are one of the best and most spectacular singers of all North American birds. Avid bird watchers enjoy the chance to see and hear these birds.

Positive Impacts: ecotourism ; research and education

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Brown thrashers can be significant pests in fruit orchards and crop fields.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Brown thrashers are one of the best and most spectacular singers of all North American birds. Avid bird watchers enjoy the chance to see and hear these birds.

Positive Impacts: ecotourism ; research and education

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Wikipedia

Brown thrasher

The brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) is a bird in the family Mimidae, which also includes the New World catbirds and mockingbirds. The dispersal of the brown thrasher is abundant throughout the eastern and central United States, southern and central Canada, and is the only thrasher to live primarily east of the Rockies and central Texas. It is the state bird of Georgia.

As a member of the genus Toxostoma, the bird is a large-sized thrasher. It has brown upper parts with a white under part with dark streaks. Because of this, it is often confused with the smaller wood thrush, among other species. The brown thrasher is noted for having over 1000 song types, and the largest song repertoire of birds.[3] However, each note is usually repeated in two or three phrases.

The brown thrasher is an omnivore, with its diet ranging from insects to fruits and nuts. The usual nesting areas are shrubs, small trees, or at times on ground level. Brown thrashers are generally inconspicuous but territorial birds, especially when defending their nests, and will attack species as large as humans.[4]

Taxonomy and naming[edit]

The brown thrasher was originally described by Linnaeus in his 18th century work Systema Naturae as Turdus rufus.[5] The species name is the Latin adjective rufus "red".

Although not in the thrush family, this bird is sometimes erroneously called the brown thrush.[6] The name misconception could be because the word thrasher is believed to derive from the word thrush.[7][8] The naturalist Mark Catesby called it the fox-coloured thrush.[9]

Genetic studies have found that the brown thrasher is most closely related to the long-billed and Cozumel thrashers, within the genus Toxostoma.[10][11]

Description[edit]

The brown thrasher is bright reddish-brown above with thin, dark streaks on its buffy underparts.[12] It has a whitish-colored chest with distinguished teardrop-shaped markings on its chest. Its long, rufous tail is rounded with paler corners, and eyes are a brilliant yellow. Its bill is brownish, long, and curves downward. Both male and females are similar in appearance.[13] The juvenile appearance of the brown thrasher from the adult is not remarkably different, except for plumage texture, indiscreet upper part markings, and the irises having an olive color.[9]

An adult with a juvenile in Virginia, USA

The brown thrasher is a fairly large passerine, although it is generally moderate in size for a thrasher, being distinctly larger than the sage thrasher but similar or somewhat smaller in size than the more brownish Toxostoma species found further west. Adults measure around 23.5 to 30.5 cm (9.3 to 12.0 in) long with a wingspan of 29 to 33 cm (11 to 13 in), and weigh 61 to 89 g (2.2 to 3.1 oz), with an average of 68 g (2.4 oz).[14] Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 9.5 to 11.5 cm (3.7 to 4.5 in), the tail is 10.9 to 14.1 cm (4.3 to 5.6 in), the culmen is 2.2 to 2.9 cm (0.87 to 1.14 in) and the tarsus is 3.2 to 3.6 cm (1.3 to 1.4 in).[9] There are two subspecies:[9] the 'brown thrasher' (T. rufum rufum), which lies in the eastern half of Canada and the United States,[9] and the 'western brown thrasher' (T. rufum longicauda (Baird, 1858)),[15][16] which resides in the central United States east of the Rocky Mountains and southern central Canada. The western brown thrasher is distinguished by a more cinnamon upper part, whiter wing bars, and darker breast spots than T.rufum rufum.[9][16]

The lifespan of the brown thrasher depends on a year-to-year basis, as the rate of survival the first year is 35%, 50% in between the second and third year, and 75% between the third and fourth year.[13] Disease and exposure to cold weather are among contributing factors for the limits of the lifespan. However, the longest lived thrasher in the wild is 12 years, and relatively the same for ones in captivity.[13]

Similar species[edit]

The similar-looking long-billed thrasher has a significantly smaller range.[17] It has a gray head and neck, and has a longer bill than the brown thrasher.[9] The brown thrasher's appearance is also strikingly similar to the wood thrush, the bird that its usually mistaken for.[9] However, the wood thrush has dark spots on its under parts rather than the brown thrashers' streaks, has dark eyes, shorter tail, and is a smaller bird.[9][18]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The brown thrasher resides in various habitats. It prefers to live in woodland edges, thickets and dense brush,[19] often searching for food in dry leaves on the ground.[20] It can also inhabit areas that are agricultural and near suburban areas, but is less likely to live near housing than other bird species.[9][13] The brown thrasher often vies for habitat and potential nesting grounds with other birds, which is usually initiated by the males.[13]

The brown thrasher is a strong, but partial migrant, as the bird is a year round resident in the southern portion of its range.[7] The breeding range includes the United States and Canada east of the Rocky Mountains, but has been occasionally spotted West of the Rockies.[21][22] Studies indicate that thrashers that reside in the New England region of the United States during the breeding season flies toward the Carolinas and Georgia, birds located in the east of the Mississippi winters from Arkansas to Georgia, and birds located in the Dakotas and the central Canadian provinces leave towards eastern Texas and Louisiana.[9] When it does migrate, it is typically for short distances and during the night.[13] There are also records of the bird wintering in Mexico,[23] as well as a British record of a transatlantic vagrant.[24]

Behavior[edit]

John James Audubon's picture depicting ferruginous thrush

The brown thrasher has been observed either solo or in pairs. The brown thrasher is usually an elusive bird, and maintains its evasiveness with low-level flying.[25][26] When it feels bothered, it usually hides into thickets and gives cackling calls.[26] Thrashers spend most of their time on ground level or near it. When seen, it is commonly the males that are singing from unadorned branches.[27] The brown thrasher has been noted for having an aggressive behavior,[28] and is a staunch defender of its nest.[13] However, the name does not come from attacking perceived threats, but is believed to have come from the thrashing sound the bird makes when digging through ground debris.[13][29] It is also thought that the name comes from the thrashing sound that is made while it is smashing large insects to kill and eventually eat.[30]

Feeding[edit]

This bird is omnivorous, which has a diet that includes insects, berries, nuts and seeds, as well as earthworms, snails, and sometimes lizards and frogs.[31] During the breeding season, the diet consists primarily of beetles, grasshoppers, and other arthropods, and fruits, nuts and seeds. By the late summer, it begins to shift towards more of a herbivore diet, focusing on fruits, nuts, seeds, and grains.[32] By winter, the customary diet of the brown thrasher is fruit and acorns.[33]

The brown thrasher utilizes its vision while scouring for food. It usually forages for food under leaves, brushes, and soil debris on the ground using its bill.[34] It then swipes the floor in side-to-side motions, and investigates the area it recently foraged in.[13] The brown thrasher can also hammer nuts such as acorns in order to remove the shell.[13] It has also been noted for its flexibility in catching quick insects, as the amount of vertebrae in its neck exceeds giraffes and camels.[35]

Breeding[edit]

nest and eggs

Brown thrashers are typically monogamous birds, but mate-switching does occur, at times during the same season.[31][36] Their breeding season varies by region. In the southeastern United States, the breeding months begin in February and March, while May and June see the commencement of breeding in the northern portion of their breeding range. When males enter the breeding grounds, their territory can range from 2 to 10 acres (0.81 to 4.05 ha).[36][37] Around this time of the year the males are usually at their most active, singing blaringly to attract potential mates, and are found on top of perches.[31][38] The courting ritual involves the exchanging of probable nesting material. Males will sing gentler as they sight a female, and this enacts the female to grab a twig or leaf and present it to the male, with flapping wings and chirping sounds. The males might also present a gift in response and approach the female.[39][40] Both sexes will take part in nest building once mates find each other, and will mate after the nest is completed.[13]

The female lays 3 to 5 eggs, that usually appears with a blueish or greenish tint along with reddish-brown spots.[19] There are rare occurrences of no spots on the eggs.[4] The nest is built twiggy, lined with grass, leaves, and other forms of dead vegetation. The nests are typically built in a dense shrub or low in a tree, usually up to 2.1 m (6.9 ft) high, but have built nests as high as 6 m (20 ft).[4] They also on occasion build nests on the ground. Between eleven days to two weeks, the eggs hatch. Both parents incubate and feed the young, with the female doing most of the incubating. Nine to thirteen days after hatching, the nestlings begin to fledge. These birds raise two, sometimes even three, broods in a year.[41] The male sings a series of short repeated melodious phrases from an open perch to declare his territory,[42] and is also very aggressive in defending the nest, known to strike people and animals.[43]

Vocal development[edit]


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The male brown thrasher may have the largest song repertoire of any North American bird, which has been documented at least over 1,100.[13] Some sources state that each individual has up to 3,000 song phrases,[44][45] while others stated beyond 3,000.[46][47][48] The males' singing voice usually contains more of a melodic tone than that of the related grey catbird.[49] Its song are coherent phrases that are iterated no more than three times, but has been done for minutes at a time.[4][50] By the fall, the male sings with smoother sub-songs.[4] During the winter, the males may also sing in short spurts during altercations with neighboring males.[33]

In the birds' youth, alarm noises are the sounds made.[13] As an adult, the brown thrasher has an array of sounds it will make in various situations. Both male and females make smack and teeooo-like alarm calls when provoked, and hijjj sounds at dust and dawn.[51] Others calls may consist of an acute, sudden chakk,[4] rrrrr, a Tcheh sound in the beginning that ends with an eeeur, kakaka, and sounds reminiscent of a stick scraping a concrete sidewalk.[52] Brown thrashers are noted for their mimicry (as a member of the family Mimidae), but they are not as diverse in this category as their relative the northern mockingbird.[4][30] However, during the breeding season, the mimicking ability of the male is at its best display, impersonating sounds from tufted titmice, northern cardinals, Wood thrushes, northern flickers, among other species.[36]

Predation and threats[edit]

Brown thrasher, High Island, Texas

Although this bird is widespread and still common, it has declined in numbers in some areas due to loss of suitable habitat.[53][54][55] Despite the decrease, the rate does not warrant a status towards vulnerable.[56] One of the natural nuisances is the parasitic brown-headed cowbird, but these incidents are rare. Whenever these situations occur, the brown thrashers usually discard of the cowbirds' eggs.[57][58] Occasionally, the thrasher has thrown out their own eggs instead of the cowbird eggs due to similar egg size,[59] and at least one recorded event raised a fledging.[58] Northern cardinals and grey catbirds are also major competitors for thrashers in terms of territorial gain.[59] Because of the apparent lack of opportunistic behavior around species like these, thrashers are prone to be driven out of zones for territory competition.[60] Brown thrashers have tendencies to double-brood or have failures on their first nesting attempts due to predation.[60] Grey catbirds have been seen invading brown thrashers' nests and breaking their eggs.[13] Other than the catbird, snakes, birds of prey, and cats are among the top predators of the thrasher.[57]

The brown thrasher methods of defending itself include using its bill, which can inflict significant damage to species smaller than it, along with wing-flapping and vocal expressions.[57]

State bird[edit]

The brown thrasher is the state bird of Georgia. The brown thrasher also was the inspiration for the name of Atlanta's former National Hockey League team, the Atlanta Thrashers.[61]

References[edit]

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Toxostoma rufum". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Barrows, W.B. (1912). "Brown Thrasher" in Michigan bird life. Michigan Agricultural College. Lansing, Michigan, p. 661.
  3. ^ Catchpole, Clive K.; J.B. Slater, Peter (2003). Bird Song: Biological Themes and Variations. Cambridge University Press. p. 167. ISBN 0-521-41799-6. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Brewer, David (2001). Wrens, Dippers and Thrashers. Pica / Christopher Helm. p. 230. ISBN 978-1-873403-95-2. 
  5. ^ Linnaeus, C. (1758). Systema Naturae per Regna Tria Naturae, Secundum Classes, Ordines, Genera, Species, cum Characteribus, Differentiis, Synonymis, Locis. Tomus I. Editio Decima, Reformata (in Latin). Holmiae: Laurentius Salvius. p. 169. 
  6. ^ "Mimic Thrush". Columbia Encyclopedia (sixth edition). 2008. Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Mobley, Jason A. (2009). Birds of the World. Marshall Cavendish. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-7614-7775-4. 
  8. ^ "The Origin of the Common Names of Wisconsin Birds" (PDF). Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Brewer, David (2001). Wrens, Dippers and Thrashers. Pica / Christopher Helm. p. 229. ISBN 978-1-873403-95-2. 
  10. ^ Zink, Robert M.; Dittmann, Donna L. (1999). "Evolutionary Patterns of Morphometrics, Allozymes, and Mitochondrial DNA in Thrashers (Genus Toxostoma)". The Auk 116 (4): 1021–38. doi:10.2307/4089682. 
  11. ^ Lovette, I. J.; Arbogast, B. S.; Curry, R. L.; Zink, R. M.; Botero, C. A.; Sullivan, J. P.; Talaba, A. L.; Harris, R. B.; Rubenstein, D. R.; Ricklefs, R. E.; Bermingham, E. (2012). "Phylogenetic relationships of the mockingbirds and thrashers (Aves: Mimidae)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 63 (2): 219–229. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2011.07.009. PMID 21867766.  edit
  12. ^ American Museum of Natural History Birds of North America Western Region. DK Publishing. 2003. p. 318. ISBN 978-0-7566-5868-7. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Gray, Philip (2007). "Toxostoma rufum". Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Retrieved 22 June 2012. 
  14. ^ Sibley, David Allen (2000). National Audubon Society: The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 412. ISBN 0-679-45122-6. 
  15. ^ "Taxostoma rufum". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 29 December 2013. 
  16. ^ a b Bent, Arthur Cleveland (1948). Life histories of North American nuthatches, wrens, thrashers and their allies (PDF). Smithsonian Institution United States National Museum Bulletin (195). Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office. pp. 374–375. 
  17. ^ "Brown Thrasher". The University of Georgia: Museum of Natural History. Georgia Museum of Natural History. 2008. Retrieved 30 June 2012. 
  18. ^ Robbins, Chandler S.; Bruun, Bretel, S. Zim, Herbert (2000). Birds of North America: A Guide to Field Identification (Golden Field Guides). DK Publishing. p. 240. ISBN 978-1582380919. Retrieved 22 June 2012. 
  19. ^ a b Semenchuk, Glen Peter (1992). The Atlas of Breeding Birds of Alberta. Federation of Alberta Naturalists. p. 234. ISBN 0-9696134-0-7. 
  20. ^ "Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: A collaborative study of Florida's birdlife." (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2012. 
  21. ^ Patten, Michael A.; McCaskie, Guy; Unitt, Philipp (2003). Birds of the Salton Sea: Status, Biogeography, and Ecology. University of California Press. p. 257. ISBN 0-520-23593-2. 
  22. ^ "Schiffornis turdinus (Wied). Thrush-like Schiffornis" (PDF). Retrieved 21 July 2012. 
  23. ^ Peterson, Roger Tory; L. Chalif, Edward (1999). A Field Guide to Mexican Birds: Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 179. ISBN 978-0-395-79514-9. 
  24. ^ "Brown Thrasher in Dorset: a species new to Britain and Ireland" (PDF). britishbirds.co.uk. Retrieved 22 June 2012. 
  25. ^ Brewer, David (2001). Wrens, Dippers and Thrashers. Pica / Christopher Helm. p. 231. ISBN 978-1-873403-95-2. 
  26. ^ a b Alderfer, Johnathan (2011). National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America (National Geographic Backyard Guides). National Geographic. p. 174. ISBN 978-1426207204. Retrieved 22 June 2012. 
  27. ^ Brewer, David (2001). Wrens, Dippers and Thrashers. Pica / Christopher Helm. p. 228. ISBN 978-1-873403-95-2. 
  28. ^ Partin H. (1977). "Breeding Biology and Behavior of the Brown Thrasher, (Toxostoma rufum)" (PDF). Ph.D. Thesis, The Ohio State University, United States. Retrieved 22 June 2012. 
  29. ^ Book of North American Birds: Readers' Digest Information. Readers' Digest. 1990. p. 259. ISBN 978-0-89577-351-7. 
  30. ^ a b Maurice, Burton; Burton, Robert (2002). Intnernational Wildlife Encyclopedia: Volume 19. Marshall Cavendish. p. 2376. ISBN 0-7614-7285-1. 
  31. ^ a b c "Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird and Brown Thrasher" (PDF). Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  32. ^ Icenoggle, Radd (2003). Birds in Place: A Habitat-Based Field Guide to the Birds of the Northern Rockies. Farcountry Press. p. 114. ISBN 1-56037-241-9. 
  33. ^ a b Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "The Project FeederWatch Top 20 feeder birds in the Southeast" (PDF). Retrieved 22 June 2012. 
  34. ^ Mobley, Jason A. (2009). Birds of the World. Marshall Cavendish. p. 109. ISBN 978-0-7614-7775-4. 
  35. ^ Cruickshank, Allan D. (1977). Cruickshank's Photographs of Birds of America: 177 Photographs and Text. Dover Publications. p. 159. ISBN 978-0486234977. 
  36. ^ a b c Fergus, Charles (2003). Wildlife of Virginia and Maryland: and Washington, D.C.. Stockpole. p. 308. ISBN 978-0811728218. 
  37. ^ Eastman, John; Hansen, Amelia (1997). Birds of Forest, Yard, and Thicket. Stockpole. p. 180. ISBN 978-0-8117-2680-1. 
  38. ^ Kroodsma, Donald E. and Parker, Linda D. (1977). "Vocal virtuosity in the Brown Thrasher". The Auk 94 (4): 783. doi:10.2307/4085282. 
  39. ^ Rylander, Michael K. (2002). Behavior of Texas Birds: A Field Companion. University of Texas Press. p. 293. ISBN 0-292-77119-3. 
  40. ^ Spess Jackson, Laura; Thompson, Carol A. and Dinsmore, James J. (1996). The Iowa Breeding Bird Atlas. University of Iowa Press. p. 292. ISBN 0-87745-561-9. 
  41. ^ James, Ryan M. (2009). Adirondack Wildlife: A Field Guide. University Press of New England. p. 155. ISBN 978-1-58465-749-1. 
  42. ^ Alderfer, Johnathan; Hess first2=Paul (2011). National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America. National Geographic. p. 174. ISBN 978-1-58465-749-1. 
  43. ^ "Species: Brown Thrasher Toxostoma rufum". Vancouver Avian Research Centre. Vancouver Avian Research Centre. 2012. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  44. ^ Kroodsma, Donald (2005). The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 425–426. ISBN 0-618-40568-2. 
  45. ^ Stap, Don (2006). Birdsong: A Natural History. Oxford University Press. p. 89. ISBN 0-19-530901-4. 
  46. ^ "All About Birds". Cornell University. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  47. ^ "Thrasher". TropicalBirds.com. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  48. ^ "Brown Thrasher". Outdoor Alabama. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  49. ^ Peterson, Roger Tory (1998). A Field Guide to the Birds of Texas: And Adjacent States. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 259. ISBN 0-19-530901-4. 
  50. ^ Hartshorne, Charles. "The Monotony Threshold in Singing Birds". The Auk 77 (2): 176–192. doi:10.2307/4081470. 
  51. ^ Lang, Elliot (2004). Know Your Bird Sounds: Songs and calls of yard, garden, and city birds. Stackpole. p. 35. ISBN 978-0811729635. 
  52. ^ Dunne, Pete (2006). Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 508–509. ISBN 0-618-23648-1. 
  53. ^ "Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) – Michigan Bird Atlas" (PDF). Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  54. ^ "New Jersey Endangered and Threatened Species Field Guide". Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  55. ^ "BROWN THRASHER (Toxostoma rufum): Guidance for Conservation" (PDF). audubon.org. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  56. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "LC: Brown Thrasher Toxostoma rufum". IUCN Red List for birds. Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  57. ^ a b c "The Birds of North America Online: Brown Thrasher". 
  58. ^ a b American Society of Naturalists. "Observation and Experiment in the Analysis of Interactions between Brood Parasites and Their Hosts" (Document). Retrieved 21 July 2012. 
  59. ^ a b Eastman, John; Hansen, Amelia (1997). Birds of Forest, Yard, and Thicket. Stackpole. p. 181. ISBN 978-0-8117-2680-1. Retrieved 25 June 2012. 
  60. ^ a b Eastman, John (2012). The Eastman Guide to Birds. Stackpole. p. 181. ISBN 978-1-81174-522-9. 
  61. ^ Haywood, Karen Diane (2005). Georgia. Marshall Cavendish. p. 4. ISBN 0-7614-1862-8. 
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Brown Thrasher

The Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum), sometimes erroneously called the Brown Thrush,[2] is a bird in the Mimidae family, a group that also includes the New World catbirds and mockingbirds.

Brown Thrasher High Island, Texas

Contents

Description

The Brown Thrasher is bright reddish-brown above with thin, dark streaks on its buffy underparts. Its long rufous tail is rounded with paler corners. Eyes are a brilliant gold. Adults average about 11.5 in (29 cm) long with a wingspan of 13 in (33 cm), and have an average mass of 2.4 oz (68 g).[3]

Habitat and range

It is found in thickets and dense brush, often searching for food in dry leaves on the ground. It also enjoys the convergence of mowed to unmowed lawns, particularly if there are ample shrubs or shrubby trees, i.e., fruit orchards that the undergrowth is left undisturbed. It also enjoys perennial gardens and can be seen jumping from the ground to catch insects on flowers and foliage. Its breeding range includes the United States and Canada east of the Rocky Mountains. It is a partial migrant, with northern birds wintering in the southern USA, where it occurs throughout the year. There is a single British record of this unlikely transatlantic vagrant.

Behavior

Feeding

This bird is omnivorous, eating insects, berries, nuts and seeds, as well as earthworms, snails, and sometimes lizards.

Breeding

The female lays 3 to 5 eggs in a twiggy nest lined with grass. The nest is built in a dense shrub or low in a tree. Both parents incubate and feed the young. These birds raise two or three broods in a year. They are able to call in up to 3000 distinct songs. The male sings a series of short repeated melodious phrases from an open perch to defend his territory and is also very aggressive in defending the nest.

Vocal Development

Brown Thrashers are known to have as many as over 3000 unique songs in their vocal repertoire. [4] [5] [6]

Conservation and threats

Although this bird is widespread and still common, it has declined in numbers in some areas due to loss of suitable habitat.

In Culture

The Brown Thrasher is the official state bird of Georgia, and was the inspiration for the name of Atlanta's former National Hockey League team, the Atlanta Thrashers.

Media

References

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Suggested to constitute a superspecies with T. LONGIROSTRE and T. GUTTATUM (Mayr and Short 1970). However, although T. RUFUM and T. LONGIROSTRE are likely sister species, they differ by 5% sequence divergence in their mitochondrial DNA (more than other closely related TOXOSTOMA species), and T. GUTTATUM was distinct from both T. RUFUM and T. LONGIROSTRE in the phylogenetic analyses of Zink et al. (1999). Placed in Sturnidae in Sibley and Ahlquist (1984).

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