Brown Thrasher in the Wildlife Garden

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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.

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Brown Thrasher will build a messy nest close to the ground in thick shrubbery or dense trees, like the Eastern Red Cedar, Sumac, and Osage Orange,

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.

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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.

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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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  1. says

    Hi Carole!

    Beautiful photos of the very elusive bird. They nested one time in the thicket of Saw Plamettos in my neighbors yard. You are so right, you hear them crunching around, but you can’t see them. In all the time they were there, I saw one adult in it’s entirety one time sitting on the fence for a brief moment. Mostly I saw fleeting moments of it flying straight into it’s hidden home.

    I was lucky this past month to spot one in oak. I was able to capture a couple of photos with the zoom, but only one has any quality to it and the bird is mostly covered up by the leaves.

    Thanks for sharing your beauties so I can actually see what the darn bird looks like :)
    loret recently posted..AMERICAN BEAUTYBERRY (Callicarpa americana)

    • says

      Loret, I was lucky that day because the shrubs in the underbrush didn’t have a lot of leaves yet. I got to go back to this spot 2 weeks later, and although I heard the birds, we only got one fleeting glance as one ran across the road. I tried to get more photos but it was too quick, and I just ended up with a rufous blur. What fun that they’ve nested in your wildlife garden!
      Carole Sevilla Brown recently posted..Loblolly Pine Wildlife Value

  2. Janice Adcox says

    Wow I feel so lucky, I live in Southeast Mo. We have 2 pair of brown thrashers. Fun to watch, one pair have a nest where we can watch from the back porch. We see them feeding off the ground and interesting thing they feed and feed babies on suet blocks that the woodpecker use. They bring babies under the feeder and the food that falls they share. I love to watch them.

  3. Carole says

    Thrashers are one of my favorites, but haven’t had the good fortune of observing their nest. I have noticed that the young have dark eyes instead of the yellow of the adults.

  4. Bonnie Chase says

    We have brown thrashers our yard. They are fun to watch when taking a bird bath. Water goes about thrashing..Wow.


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