Brown Thrasher

Toxostoma rufum
A Brown Thrasher specimen on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

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.

DC Information

Common summer resident, March to mid-October, although some may be found in winter. Breeds in brushy areas including residential hedgerows, from mid-April to mid-August. Sexes are similar.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC53696 Toxostoma rufum (Brown Thrasher)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC53697 Toxostoma rufum (Brown Thrasher)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC53698 Toxostoma rufum (Brown Thrasher)