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Bird Watching Brown Thrasher

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I have read in several bird books that the brown thrasher is not as common a sight in yards and gardens as they once were. I have a couple in my yard, however, that visit on a regular basis. You will also want to encourage these birds to come to your yard.

The brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) is actu­¾åü ally more of a rust color. Both the male and the female have rusty-colored (sometimes described as rufous-red) upperparts. The underparts are a cream-color with dark brown to black streaks. They also have long rounded tails, white wing bars, and long de-curved bills. The brown thrasher is often confused with the wood thrush. The brown thrasher, however, is larger (10��-12 inches); and the adults have yellow eyes. (The wood thrush, in contrast, is 7��-8�� inches long and has black eyes.)

The brown thrasher can be found in Canada in southeastern Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario. In the United States, it ranges from northern New England south to the Gulf Coast and Florida. Twice during the breeding season, 3-6 pale-blue to white eggs with reddish-brown spots are laid. Both the male and the female incubate the eggs for 12-14 days, after which the fledglings leave the nest in 9-13 days.

The brown thrasher is a member of the same family as the mockingbird. It does not have as large a repertoire of songs as its relative; however, it does sing quite a bit and has a wide variety of songs at its disposal. Songs are repeated twice. It also will issue "smack" notes on occasion.

The brown thrasher got its name from the fact that it uses its bill to thrash around on the ground for food. It will use its long bill to dig in the dirt and turn over leaves in its quest for insects. This bird also likes small frogs, lizards, salamanders, and snakes. In addition, it will eat a variety of berries, particularly those growing on dense shrubs. As previously mentioned, there seem to be fewer brown thrashers visiting yards and gardens. While no one seems to know the reason, I suspect that more people are using chemicals on their lawns in order to kill weeds and create a more perfect lawn. Brown thrashers spend most of their time on the ground; therefore, they are apt to stay away from chemically-treated areas. We use no chemicals on our lawn or in any of our gardens, which encourages many different varieties of birds - including the brown thrasher - to visit.

You can attract brown thrashers to your yard by providing them with some dense shrubbery. They like to build nests in the lower branches of such shrubs. I have also found that they like the suet we put out for the woodpeckers.

References:
Alsop, Fred J. III. All About Tennessee Birds. Birmingham, AL: Sweetwater Press, 1997, p. 146.
Bull, John and Farrand, Jr., John. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Edition. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994, p. 640.
Carpenter, Tom. The Gardener's Bird Book. Minnetonka, MN: National Home Gardening Club, 1999, p. 70.

More Bird Watching articles:
Northern "Yellow-Shafted" Flicker
Create a Winter Sanctuary for Your Birds

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