Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum), the only Thrasher east of Texas, is a member of the Mimidae family which includes the Northern Mockingbird and the Gray Catbird. It can be found in dense, thorny shrubs. If you have this type of habitat in your wildlife garden, you may succeed in inviting them to nest, but chances are you’ll hear them before you see them.
The Brown Thrasher skulks on the ground and rarely is far from cover in thickets and tangles. When threatened they move very quickly to safety in the shrubs. If on the nest and feeling unsafe, they will drop quickly to the ground to hide among the leaf litter on the ground.
Both the male and the female participate in building the nest and incubating their young. While they are monogamous during each breeding season, it is not known if pairs remain mated in successive years.
The female Brown Thrasher will lay 2-6 eggs, and the fledged young may leave the nest within 10 days of hatching. They may raise 2 broods of young each season.
The Brown Thrasher will aggressively defend their nest from predators which include snakes, raccoons, Cowbirds, and other Brown Thrashers. If they’re nesting in your wildlife garden, be careful of getting too close to the nest, and keep your dogs away too, because these birds will strike with their bills hard enough to draw blood.
The Brown Thrasher feeds by searching in the leaf litter, and “thrashing” its bill from side to side in search of beetles and other insect snacks. This “thrashing” noise is probably the best indication that they are nearby. If you hear a lot of noise under your shrubs as leaves are tossed from side to side, keep your eyes peeled for this elusive bird.
In addition to eating beetles and other insects found in the leaf litter, the Brown Thrasher will also eat seeds, nuts and berries.
Like its cousins the Mockingbird and Catbird, the Brown Thrasher is an accomplished songster, and mimics other birds and sounds in its songs. Their range of different songs may number over 1000 songs.
Because they are so elusive, I was thrilled to be able to closely observe a pair of these birds building a nest on a recent visit to Assawoman Wildlife Area in southern Delaware. It was truly a blessing to see them so well, and to grab the photos of the Brown Thrasher included in this article.
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