Bird Database

Brown Thrasher

(Toxostoma rufum)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Short distance


Strongly Decreasing


Habitat maturation, Habitat loss

Conservation Actions

Manage early sucessional habitat

Brown Thrasher

(Toxostoma rufum)

Thrashers are in the same family (mimidae) as catbirds and mockingbirds, all of which are well known for their singing prowess. Although this family’s name references their mimicry, the Brown Thrasher is the least likely of our three species to mimic other birds. It makes up for this by having one of the largest repertoires of any North American bird: over a thousand different song types have been documented so far. Its song is a mix of squeaks, whistles, and gurgling notes, and can often be distinguished from those of catbirds and mockingbirds by the thrasher’s tendency to repeat each phrase twice in succession.

When they’re not singing, Brown Thrashers can be hard birds to find, since they tend to skulk in dense shrubs or other tangles, often close to or on the ground. You’re almost as likely to hear one scratching about in leaf litter as it forages. In New Hampshire the best habitats to find the species include pine barrens, power line corridors, and overgrown field edges. Unfortunately, thrashers have gotten harder and harder to find in the Granite State and show one of the most dramatic declines of any species. Although it’s still possible to find them across most of the state (except the White Mountains), they are increasingly restricted to the southeastern third and along the Connecticut River. As is the case with shrubland birds in general, this decline is at least partially due to succession of shrublands to forest.

Habitat management will be key to keeping thrashers around, and given that New Hampshire remains mostly forested, it will not be possible to return them to the levels of the mid-1900s. Our best option will be to focus efforts on areas that are already maintained as early successional habitat, including utility corridors and pine barrens. The key will be to encourage dense shrub growth instead of young trees, since thrashers are rarely found in the latter habitat, or at least don’t persist there for very long.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Brown Thrasher
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count