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Brown Thrasher

Toxostoma rufum

Length: 11.5 inches Wingspan: 14 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Rufous brown upperparts, white heavily streaked underparts, 2 white wing bars

Brown Thrasher -  Toxostoma rufumBrown Thrashers are shy birds of woodland edges and thickets, usually rushing for cover at approach.  However, they can often been seen singing from a high, conspicuous perch at the start of the breeding season.  Like others of the family Mimidae (the family including Mockingbirds), the Brown Thrasher will occasionally mimic the songs of other birds. They are thought to have the richest vocabulary of any bird in North America.


Forest edges and clearings, brushy fields, thickets, residential shrubs and hedges. 


Insects, crustaceans, lizards, amphibians, earthworms, fruits and berries, nuts, and seeds.


Does most of its foraging on the ground, hopping about looking for food, or flipping over leaves and small stones in search of insects.  Will also feed in trees and shrubs, especially when feeding on fruit and nuts.


May through July in South Dakota. The nest of a Brown Thrasher is a large bulky cup, constructed of twigs, weed stems, strips of bark, leaves, and other vegetative material, lined with fine grasses. Both the male and female help construct the nest. The female lays between 2 and 6 eggs and both parents help to incubate them. The young hatch after about 13 days, fledging from the nest 10-13 days after hatching.


Long series of distinct phrases, with each generally given in pairs before moving on to the next phrase. Brown Thrashers have an incredibly diverse set of vocalizations, with phrases and songs differing between individual birds, or even a single bird frequently changing its song. They also have a variety of shorter calls.


Northern populations (including those in South Dakota) move south in the fall.  Most winter in the southeastern United States.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click here for access to an interactive eBird map of Brown Thrasher sightings


Will occasionally come for bread, fruits, or suet. I've also had them come to my Oriole feeder to feed on jelly and/or orange halves.

Similar Species:

Generally distinctive if seen well, but Brown Thrashers could be confused with some Thrush or other Thrasher species.

Wood Thrush 1 - Hylocichla mustelina Wood Thrush 2 - Hylocichla mustelina Long-billed Thrasher - Toxostoma longirostre  
Wood Thrush Wood Thrush Long-billed Thrasher  

Conservation Status:

Brown Thrashers are found across a very broad geographic area, and are common in many parts of that range. Populations overall are generally stable.  The IUCN considers the Brown Thrasher to be a species of "Least Concern"

Further Information:

Photo Information:

May 13th, 2014 -- Brandon, South Dakota -- Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Brown Thrasher photos.

Audio File Credits:

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view 
Brown Thrasher - Range Map 
South Dakota Status: Common summer resident

Additional Brown Thrasher Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Brown Thrasher 1 - Toxostoma rufumBrown Thrasher 2 - Toxostoma rufumBrown Thrasher 3 - Toxostoma rufumBrown Thrasher 4 - Toxostoma rufumBrown Thrasher 5 - Toxostoma rufumBrown Thrasher 6 - Toxostoma rufumBrown Thrasher 7 - Toxostoma rufumBrown Thrasher 8 - Toxostoma rufumBrown Thrasher 9 - Toxostoma rufumBrown Thrasher 10 - Toxostoma rufumBrown Thrasher 11 - Toxostoma rufumBrown Thrasher 12 - Toxostoma rufum