Thursday, April 3, 2014

Clips & Crops: Brown Thrasher

It's best not to get too close the nest of a bird. There is the risk that they may abandon it or the nestlings may be frightened and leave before they are ready to fly. Your path may leave a scent trail or disturb foliage, inviting predators to explore your track. As a youngster already interesting in bird life I was not aware of these issues. However, I will never forget the fire in the bright yellow eyes of a Brown Thrasher that threatened me as I approached its nest in a low bush. It never touched me, but flew at me and really gave me a scare!

I'm not afraid of snakes or spiders or bats, but every time I see those thrasher eyes they threaten to rekindle an atavistic fear somewhere deep within me.

Brown Thrasher 20140212

On February 12, near the entrance to Chapel Trail Nature Preserve near our South Florida home, I heard the distinctive double phrases of a thrasher's song. Similar enough to that of the related mockingbird's, it might be overlooked, but this bird's song seemed to overwhelm the sounds of its much more common relatives.

If the 30-second video does not appear in the space below, follow this link

A few Brown Thrashers nest in our general area but so far they have appeared locally only during migration and winter. 

Brown Thrasher 3-20140212

Alert and often secretive, their brown backs sometimes look so red that when one flashes by I can mistake it for a cardinal.

Brown Thrasher 3-20100428

Thrashers are more often heard than seen, either because of their distinctive loud song and calls, or by the noise they create while "thrashing" about in leaf litter, scratching with both feet to uncover insect prey. It is nice to find one out in the open...

Brown Thrasher 2-20111107

...but in many of my photos they are obscured by foliage.

Brown Thrasher 20121009

Actually, the thrasher may have gotten its name, not because of any wild and violent movement on its part, but from an old English word, "thresher" or "thrusher," meaning a thrush. REFERENCE 

Indeed, mockingbirds, catbirds and thrashers are grouped in the family Mimidae, or Mimic Thrushes. Their body and bill profiles are all quite similar. 

Northern Mockingbird:

Northern Mockingbird 20121213

Gray Catbird:

Gray Catbird 20111024

Before I took up photogrpahy I saw Long-billed Thrashers in south Texas, Crissal and Bendire's Thrashers in New Mexico, and California Thrashers in (where else?) California. Here is a Curve-billed Thrasher photographed in New Mexico:

Curve-billed Thrasher 4-20111114

Sage Thrasher in the Texas Panhandle:

Sage Thrasher 2-20111112

I did bring a pocket camera to California, and though I did not capture any thrashers, my favorite shot was of two of our granddaughters checking out a Redwood tree in Muir Woods.

Muir Woods 20100624


  1. Kenneth, I like the thrashers. They are interesting birds. I have seen quite a few of them but I still need to see the Sage and California thrashers. I saw my first ever Brown thrasher in Ft. Myers, FL back in 2003. I saw one there again this year when I went to visit my brother in Cape Coral, FL about a month ago. You got some nice photos there and a funny story!

  2. I have them all winter long at my feeders. I make sure I have plenty of suet cakes for them and the bluejays.