Brown Thrasher (Toxstoma rufum)

A medium-sized mostly brown bird with white breast spotted with brown spots.

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Brown thrashers are beautiful birds that are often heard "thrashing" dry leaves on the ground as they forage for insects, small amphibians, and other food items.

As habitat changes an animal or plant has three options: move to more satisfactory habitat elsewhere, adapt to the changing habitat, or simply die out. While brown thrasher populations are stable in most areas, their numbers are declining slowly in other areas. This may be due to maturation of forested areas and possibly other factors that are not well understood.

Birds must also adapt to other conditions. The chicks of brown thrashers tend to leave the nest within 9-13 days, much faster than most other birds. This may be due to the high number of predators that are found in brushy areas.

Fascinating Facts

  • The brown thrasher has an enormously variable song. Some suggest there are as many as 1,100 song variations; others claim as many as 3,000. Regardless their songs are complex and often copied from the songs of other birds. A careful listener, however, will detect each phrase being sung twice before the bird continues on to the next phrasing.


  • Key ID Features: About the size of a robin, but mostly rusty brown above and white below spotted with brown dots. The tail is longer than a robin's while the bill is long and slightly curved downward over its length. Both genders appear similar.
  • Present in Park: Look for these birds on the ground in brushy areas and along forested edges rather than in heavy forest. May through October.
  • Habitat: Look for these birds in thick brush, especially as they forage in fallen leaves.
  • Voice: Extremely variable songs with phrases repeated in twos or threes.

Last updated: September 28, 2021

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

111 E. Kellogg Blvd., Suite 105
Saint Paul, MN 55101


This is the general phone line at the Mississippi River Visitor Center.

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