Brown Thrasher


Common Name:Brown Thrasher





Species:Toxostoma rufum

Photo: Ivan Andrijevic



Brown Thrashers are passerines in the family Mimidae which groups them together with Mockingbirds. This species of Thrasher is the only one east of the Rocky Mountains and central Texas. Brown Thrashers are monochromatic which means that males and females look similar. They have a rufous crown, nape, uppertail and tail. They have heavy black streaks on white chest and belly and a grayish-brown face. Brown Thrashers are about 11.5 inches (29cm) in size.


The breeding range of Brown Thrashers extends from southern Canada to east-central Texas, the Gulf Coast and southern Florida. It extends west from the Atlantic Coast to the Rocky Mountains. They winter in central Texas. Brown Thrashers prefer woodland areas, brushy areas, hedges and roadsides. They are most often seen on or near the ground. Brown Thrasher's diets consist of insects, mostly beetles, fruits and nuts. They are ground gleaners which means they pick up items off the surface of soil, sand, turf. They use their long, strong bill to dig away at debris for food.

Photo: M. Noonan



Brown Thrashers  have one of the largest song repertoires documented in North America with more than 1,000 songs. They can also copy the songs of other species. During courtship displays, a male song will elicit the female response of picking up a twig and hopping to the male. She will then flutter wings vigorously and chirp while the male may pick up dead leaves and bring it to the female. Brown Thrashers have a monogamous mating system and usually have 2 broods per year. Both males and females will help with nest construction. Usually nests are located on the ground but can also be in vines or small trees. The female lays 4-5 pale bluish-white eggs and both sexes will incubate the eggs for the 11-14 day period.  Hatching is asynchronous in the earlier clutches. The young are altricial when born which means they are blind, helpless and immobile. Both parents will care for young until they are ready to fledge which occurs about 9-13 days after hatching. Brown Thrashers are a common victim of brood parasitism by the Brown-headed Cowbird. They are the largest host of Cowbirds in North America.




Brown Thrashers are usually found on hillsides covered with low bushes and occasionally in grasslands with scattered bushes during the summer. To find Brown Thrashers in WNY look in shrubby areas, as well as urban parks and paths.


Birds of Western New York is brought to you by the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.