Brown Thrasher. Mike’s Birds


My young friend Ruthie (age 8 ½) sent me pictures of a robin-sized bird with a fairly long bill, slightly curved downward. It also has a fairly long tail. It is a striking, rufus-brown on his upper parts and tail and creamy underneath with long splotchy streaks underneath. In some ways, it looks like a Wood Thrush but larger and lankier. This is the Brown Thrasher. (Photo by Mike’s Birds.) Ruthie tells me there are two, and she thinks they are building a nest in a forsythia bush in her yard.

To me this is quite a find. I’ve never seen a Brown Thrasher in our part of Maine. That’s not to say they don’t live here, but this is the very northern part of their range, and they are uncommon. Brown Thrashers seek out dry thickets, shrub rows and woody areas with dense undercover. This habitat makes them hard to find.  In fact, they are often heard before they are seen.

Ruthie’s yard in Bethel is actually a pretty good place for a Brown Thrasher to nest. She and her parents have extensive gardens full of plants and shrubs that provide ground cover where thrashers can pick and scratch looking for grubs and insects. During nesting season, thrashers pair up and work hard finding the insects they need to raise their young.

One of the most remarkable things about thrashers is their singing ability. They, along with catbirds and mocking birds (a bird considered uncommon in our area), are known for their large song repertoires. Brown Thrashers top the list and are believed to sing more songs than any other. In one case, a Brown Thrasher was recorded singing over 4,500 different songs in one long continuous string. Ruthie also has catbirds nesting in her yard and she’s learning to tell the difference between these two singers.

There’s one more reason Ruthie’s yard is good for Brown Thrashers. Her parents have planted a wide variety of fruit trees including peaches, pear, apple, quince, cherry as well as blueberry bushes. They should be warned that once the Brown Thrashers have raised their young, they expand their diet to include fruits and berries. Maybe sharing some fruit with a thrasher family is fair pay for all the insects they eat along the way. Or, maybe it’s just the perfect price for having a Brown Thrasher concert all summer long.

James Reddoch, of Albany Township and Boston, leads birding events for the Mahoosuc Land Trust. Visit Mahoosuc Land Trust at 162 North Road, Bethel, ME. To contact James, send your emails to [email protected]

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