03.25.18: Brown Thrasher

A Brown Thrasher calls from a tree in Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio. 


Technical information

May 6, 2006,
10:06 a.m.

40°6’50” N,
82°57'30" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 20D

Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L, Canon 2x teleconverter (600mm) 


1/2500th second


I’m often asked what is my favorite bird to photograph and I admit when asked that it’s a difficult question to answer. The answer would vary by day and by season.

But if someone would ask what is my favorite bird to listen to, there’s one answer: the Brown Thrasher.

For those who have never heard a Brown Thrasher (or didn’t realize they had listened to one), the best description I can give is that a Brown Thrasher sounds like a more talented mockingbird. Both the Brown Thrasher and Northern Mockingbird mimic calls of other birds. But a mockingbird’s song repertoire may number more than 200. The male Brown Thrasher has a documented repertoire of more than 1,100 songs, with some sources stating the number may be more than 3,000.

That’s a lot of music to memorize.

Several online bird sources say the best way to determine if a song you hear is from a thrasher or a mockingbird is to listen to the pattern. Thrashers typically repeat a phrase in pairs while a mockingbird repeats a phrase in triplets.

The Brown Thrasher looks like a slightly larger mockingbird with brown feathers replacing the mockingbird’s gray, yellow eyes and a slightly down-curved bill.

I found this Brown Thrasher in a local park, singing from the top of a tree on a spring morning. They do that occasionally, especially during breeding season, but the bird prefers to stay hidden.

I often find Brown Thrashers lurking in thickets or underbrush, where they search for food that can include berries, insects, nuts and seeds, as well as snails, worms, and sometimes lizards and frogs. I also find them rummaging through fallen leaves near the edge of forests. When they take flight, they usually stay low as they dart from thicket to thicket. That’s why many of my photos of thrashers are obstructed, with leaves or branches blocking the view of the bird.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.