Brown Thrasher: Song with a Repeat

Birds communicate with their songs. Males sing loudly, partly to advertise their presence to females, but also to warn other males that this particular territory already is occupied and will be defended.

Gray catbirds, however, are known for mimicking the songs of other birds, including brown thrashers, and live in similar habitat. To make things more complex for thrashers to communicate with each other, each thrasher male has a number of songs that it uses to impress females. Researchers suggest that a male with many songs may be more attractive to females than a male with fewer songs.

Human birders, and presumably other thrashers, can tell which species they are hearing by carefully listening for the twice-repeated phrases in the brown thrasher song, something lacking in the catbird’s mimicry. Those repeating phrases help thrashers communicate with each other, and help birders identify a song as that of the brown thrasher.

Click on the "Listen" link in the sidebar and listen carefully for the repeated phrase.

Fascinating Facts

Thrashers derive their names from their “thrashing” forest floor leaves while looking for food. Often this loud rustling is the first clue that a thrasher is in the area.

Brown thrasher

Brown Thrasher (Toxstoma rufum)

Key ID Features: Slightly larger than a robin. Rich reddish-brown above; white breast with brown streaks. Tail is long relative to body size compared to most other birds.

Present in Park: April through October.

Habitat: Second-growth forest (recently logged). Nests are located near the ground in shrubby growth.

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