[Published in 1948: Smithsonian Institution United States National Museum Bulletin 195: 351-374]
*** During some 60 years of acquaintance with the brown thrasher in eastern Massachusetts, I have formed a somewhat different impression of it from that gathered from the published accounts of it in more western and southern regions. Ever since I was a small boy, the catbird has lived and raised its young in my father's yard, and more recently in my own yard, every year, and this close to the center of the city of Taunton, almost within a stone's throw of brick and mortar. But the thrasher never has nested here, and only on rare occasions have I seen a straggler in my yard. Any my experience has been similar to that of other observers. Here the thrasher is essentially a bird of the rural, woodland, and farming districts, living in bushy pastures, sproutlands, brier patches, tangles along fences, dry thickets, brushy hillsides, and the edges of woodlands, almost always far from human habitations. On large estates and in parks or reservations, where there are scattered woodlands and plenty of shrubbery, the brown thrasher may find a congenial home, and here it may build its nest close to a house; but such cases are exceptional in New England, so far as I can learn; as a rule, our thrashers are shy, retiring birds of the more open countryside.
Miss Sherman (1912) writes:
In eastern Massachusetts it is said to be a nesting bird of the woodlands, rarely coming close to the homes of men to build its nest. This may in part be due to the pruned, trimmed and shaven condition of trees, shrubs and lawns. I remember once seeing a pair nesting in a hedge quite near a house at Quaker Hill in eastern New York. It is a bird that seeks a bit of thick and tangled growth in which to build, but in Iowa it finds such places to its taste in the man-planted trees and shrubs that grow upon prairie soil, usually not far from human homes. It is eminently a house-yard bird, although it sometimes nests in patches of bushy second growth that have sprung up on clearings made in the woods.
Dr. W. G. Erwin (1935) made his extensive studies of the brown
thrasher on the campus of George Peabody College for Teachers, in
Nashville, Tenn., where several pairs nested near the buildings
and in the shrubbery, in spite of much human activity. At
Fairmount Hill, a suburb of Wichita, Kans., Dwight Isely (1912)
found this bird "in large numbers all over the city, and in
the parks. Its nests are very abundant in osage orange hedges. In
May and June the old birds, followed by the young, may be seen on
the lawns everywhere, pulling worms out of the ground. They feed
also in the fields and a few follow the plow." And, in Kansas
City, Mo., according to Harry Harris (1919), "they breed
freely within the city in the same districts and in the same kind
of brushy cover as the Catbird. The two species do not nest close
together, however, as they are mortal enemies during the breeding
season and have been known to battle to death over a disputed
nesting site." Similar habitats are frequented in other
western and southern states, which are quite different from our
conception of the haunts of the brown thrasher in New England;
perhaps, if we had more neglected brush heaps and tangles of
unkempt shrubbery and vines about our grounds, we might tempt the
thrasher to be
more sociable and nest near our homes.
Spring.--Many of the early spring birds, the bluebird, the robin, the phoebe, the grackle, and others, have come to Massachusetts during March and the early April days; they have advanced and they have retreated as gentle spring struggled to overcome relentless winter; but, during the last 10 days of April, when the pussy willows are decorated with golden tassels, the swamp maples are glowing with bright red blossoms, and the shadbush and the cherry trees are in full bloom, it seems as if spring had really come, with nature awakening all about us. Then we may look for the coming of the brown thrasher. As we walk along some country road on a bright spring morning, warmed by the rising sun and the soft south wind, we may see him perched in the top of some wayside tree or on some tall bush on the border of the woods, pouring out his delightful song, with his head held high, his bill wide open, his long tail drooping, and his whole frame vibrating with the ecstasy of his song. We may imagine that he is telling the farmer in the adjacent plowed lot how to plant his corn; at least, his words seem to say so; but, more likely, it is just an outburst of joy, to announce that he has found his summer home, a warning to any rival that he claims his territory, or an invitation to an expected mate to come and join him in his homemaking. What a thrill of springtime pleasure such a scene must give to the appreciative mind! I pity the sordid soul that can pass it by unheeded, for he misses much of the beauty in the world about him.
Territory.--Each pair of thrashers has a definite breeding territory, which it defends during the nesting season. The male arrives some days in advance of the female and begins at once to look the region over with a view to selecting his territory; at first he is furtive and quiet but soon announces his choice in his loud outburst of song, an invitation to his mate. The actual nesting site, probably selected by the female, may or may not be very near the singing tree. Aretas A. Saunders writes to me: "In the spring of 1923 I noted during early morning walks that a brown thrasher sang daily from a small tree along a roadside in Fairfield, Conn. The bird sang from April 27 to May 13. On the 14th, not hearing the song at first, I soon discovered the bird in a tangle of weeds and blackberry almost directly beneath the singing tree. Another bird, evidently the female, was with him and he was following her around on the ground, singing constantly a song like the normal one in form but so faint I could not have heard it had I not been very close to the birds. After that time I no longer heard this bird in song and did not see it or its mate again until May 22, when I discovered the nest with four eggs and a bird incubating them. The nest was in almost the exact spot where I had observed the courtship and almost directly beneath the singing tree of late April and early May."
Another experience of his was quite different. On a small hill near his house was a dense thicket of sumacs, rambler roses, and other shrubs, in which for a succession of years a pair of song sparrows and later a pair of catbirds had nested. "The catbirds nested there until 1938. That spring the male catbird arrived and sang as usual, and a week or so later his mate arrived. On May 18, when the catbirds were just beginning to gather nesting material, a pair of brown thrashers arrived rather suddenly; they at once took over the thicket and started nest-building. I saw no fighting between them and the catbirds. The latter simply retired to a neighboring yard.
"I had heard no thrasher song anywhere near my home, and I did not hear it now. The birds had simply moved in from elsewhere after they had become mated. The nest was soon finished and the eggs laid. During the period of incubation, I heard the male thrasher sing a few notes one day, but that was all the song I heard from the bird that summer. They produced a brood of young successfully.
"I believe that both the brown thrasher and the catbird are territorial in nesting behavior. But in this region the catbird is extremely abundant and the thrasher only fairly common. For catbirds territory is scarce, but for thrashers it is abundant. Evidently a pair of thrashers can have their pick of territory, once they are mated, by simply taking that of the catbirds. So they often move elsewhere after the mate arrives, whereas catbirds must stick to the territory they have selected.
"So, it seems from this observation that the male thrasher does not always select the nesting territory, but merely one to which it first attracts a mate by its singing. The nesting territory, in some cases at least, is selected after the mating has taken place, and then it would seem likely that the female would have more to do with the selection than her mate."
From Dr. Erwin's (1935) studies of the territorial behavior of the brown thrasher on Peabody College campus, "it seems that the male Thrasher selects a desirable area immediately after arrival, and remains in this area for 10 or more days before beginning his song. The author was unable to secure data which would indicate whether territorial fights occurred within this interval or not." He continues:
An effort was made to locate the boundaries of the territories of each pair of Thrashers on Peabody Campus. The method used was the observation of the limits of their feeding grounds and the locations and results of territorial fights. . . . There seemed to be a definite tendency for the Thrashers to adopt buildings, driveways, walks, and shrubbery rows for boundaries in many cases. After a territory was established, the activities of the particular pair of Thrashers seemed to be almost entirely confined to this area. All nests of the season were built within this territory. . . .
Thrashers almost always object to the presence of other Thrashers in their territory, although they usually do not object to the presence of birds of other species so long as they do not go near their nest, or do not interfere with their feeding activities.
Courtship.--The loud, tree-top song of the male is the first step in the courtship performance, the curtain raiser, as it were. It will be noted from the above account that the male does not begin to sing immediately on his arrival but waits until he can expect the arrival of a possible mate, a matter of perhaps 10 days or 2 weeks. Then he issues his loud invitation, which, under favorable circumstances, may be heard at a long distance. This song is also a challenge to rival males, and territorial fights between the rivals may occur during the early stages of courtship. When the male and the female finally come together, the song of the male becomes so subdued and soft that it is almost inaudible, as the pair play about close together under the shrubbery. Dr. Erwin's (1935) records show that the male "sang very softly when the female was nearby, but when she flew away he also [as did another] began to sing much louder, as if to call her back, and at one time followed her a short distance, singing on the wing."
The more intimate part of the courtship is not easily seen, as it usually takes place under dense cover, but Dr. Erwin has published the following account of it in his excellent paper:
April 29, 9:00 a.m., both male and female were observed under the shrubbery at the right of the exit. The female hopped out in the grass away from the shrubbery about 10 feet and began to dig in the ground with her bill. After about 5 minutes the male came out a distance of about a foot from the shrubbery. The female picked up a small twig in her bill and hopped back to the male, fluttering her wings vigorously, giving soft chirps. No further activities were observed as they searched for food among the leaves for 8 minutes. Then the female hopped out on the grass, again secured a twig, and began to flutter her wings and give soft chirps as before. The male picked up two dead leaves and hopped toward her, whereupon she fluttered her wings even more vigorously and issued chirps a little louder. Both dropped the materials held in their bills and engaged in coitus. Both birds then hopped down the shrubbery row, the female gathering twigs and fluttering her wings several times, after which both went under the shrubbery.
He did not see any show of display or strutting in this or other courtship antics. Audubon (1841b), however, says: "The actions of this species during the period of courtship are very curious, the male often strutting before the female with his tail trailing on the ground, moving gracefully round her, in the manner of some pigeons, and while perched and singing in her presence, vibrating his body with vehemence."
Brown thrashers do not always remain mated through even one breeding season. Samuel Elliott Perkins, 3d (1930), has shown this to be so in at least some cases by banding and recovering adult thrashers during the rearing of their first and second broods. He reports "a case of a pair of birds changing mates 2 months after they had raised a brood together, under conditions which proved that it was not the seeking of a new mate after the death of the previous one." In this case, each of the original pair was trapped and found to be paired with a new mate. He continues: "We have had four other pairs of Brown Thrashers in the same area under observation, where only one of each pair was a banded bird. The inference seems irresistible that after each brood is raised there is a complete shuffling of mates among the Brown Thrashers." Apparently the brown thrasher is no more constant in its marital relations than is the house wren. Arthur T. Wayne (1910) was told by a man he considered to be reliable of a female brown thrasher being mated with a male mockingbird.
Nesting.--I have been surprised to read in the literature and in contributed notes that, throughout the western and southern portions of its range, the brown thrasher very seldom builds its nest upon the ground, for that is certainly not the case in New England, or at least in eastern Massachusetts. Miss Sherman (1912) writes:
In Iowa I have never found a nest nearer than 18 inches or 2 feet of the ground, one of these being in the lower branches of a spruce tree, the other in a brush pile. Another was found built in a brush pile, but farther from the ground; these are the only nests thus situated that have been found, but brush piles on prairie land are rare. The next locations nearest the ground are where nests are built in such bushes as gooseberry, lilac, and syringa, when they are from two to three feet above the ground. The highest nest situation found was one in a tame crabapple tree about ten feet up; the other trees frequently used are spruce, willow, apple, and plum trees in which a majority of the nests are about five feet from the ground.
A. Dawes DuBois has sent me his data on 19 nests, found in Illinois, only one of which was on the ground "under a large, cattle-eaten bush in a pasture"; he remarks that this is the only nest he ever found on the ground. His other nests were mostly in bushes, hedges, or low trees; one was 3 feet from the ground in a large osage-orange hedge, and one was in the top of an apple tree.
Frank W. Braund's data sent to me show five nests, found in Ohio, all 2 1/2 to 4 feet up in bushes or small trees. One nest found near Jackson, Tenn., but not collected, was of rather unusual construction, begin made of coarse grasses, with a few leaves, and lined with fine grass.
There is a set of six eggs in my collection, taken by W. L. Griffin in Pulaski County, Ky., that came from a nest 15 feet from the ground in a gum tree; the eggs were evidently laid by two females, as two of them were more heavily marked than the other four; furthermore, three adult birds appeared and made the usual demonstration while the eggs were being taken.
Evidently none of the nests studied by Dr. Erwin (1935) at Nashville, Tenn., was on the ground; his lowest nest was a foot from the ground in a thick growth of smilax; one pair of thrashers started a nest 14 feet up on a horizontal branch of a maple but never completed it. Of the 59 nests examined, nearly 80 percent were between 2 and 7 feet above ground; only nine were higher and three lower. "The most common locations for nests on Peabody Campus were Golden Bell (Forsythia sp.) and Privet (Ligustrum sp.). Other shrubs and smaller trees were occasionally used."
W. Leon Dawson (1903), referring to Ohio, writes: "Nesting sites are various, but the bird shows a decided preference for those which are naturally defended by thorns. Nearly every full sized Crategus (thorn apple) has at one time harbored a nest. Hedges of osage-orange are well patronized--almost exclusively so. . . further west--and the honey-locust tree is not forgotten. Next after these come wild plum thickets, grapevine tangles, brush heaps, fence corners, and last of all, the ground." He shows a photograph of a nest in a corner of a Virginia rail fence.
H. O. Todd, Jr., tells me that out of 109 nests found in Tennessee, only one was on the ground.
It is rather unusual for a thrasher to build its nest close to a house, but several such cases have been reported; E. S. Cameron (1908) reports a nest built close to a window in his house on his ranch in Montana; and E. D. Nauman (1930a) writes: "While myself and family were living on a farm near Thornburg, Iowa, some years ago, we had a thriving rose bush standing directly in front of the kitchen window and close up; so close in fact that some of the foliage and roses touched the glass. One season the Brown Thrashers (Toxostoma rufum) made their home in the rose bush. Their nest was twenty inches from the window glass." The birds were not in the least disturbed by activities within the house. The only report I can find of any considerable number of brown thrasher nests on the ground in the Middle West comes from Edmonde S. Currier (1904) in Minnesota. He says: "Several nests seen, and all of them were sunken in the ground after the manner of a Towhee's. In Iowa I have seen the nest thus placed, but it is very unusual, and it is strange that the Leech Lake bird should prefer such a situation, though there must be a reason."
On the contrary, ground nests are common in New England. One half of the nests in southeastern Massachusetts, as recorded in my field notes, were on the ground under bushes, trees, or thickets. The others were in bushes, small trees, or brush heaps; the highest nest I find recorded was only 4 feet from the ground in an arborvitae. Frederick H. Kennard's notes for the vicinity of Boston record 23 nests, 10 of which were on the ground. All authorities seem to agree that, in this region, ground nests are of common occurrence, especially on the higher lands, where the ground is warm and dry and where the thrasher evidently prefers to nest.
Eggs of the brown thrasher have been found in the nests of other birds. There is a set of eggs in the American Museum of Natural History, in New York, taken by H. B. Bailey on June 5, 1886, near South Orange, N.J. It was taken from a wood thrush's nest, which contained four eggs of the thrush, incubated about 7 days, and two fresh eggs of the thrasher. Thrasher eggs have also been found in nests with those of the mockingbird, the robin, and the cardinal. Dr. W. C. Herman (1923) tells of a remarkable dual nest, in which "the foundation was typical of that of the thrasher, while the center was that of the robin, both nests being well made and complete in every detail. His photograph of it shows four eggs of the thrasher and one of the robin. The thrasher was on the nest, which was afterward destroyed by some unknown enemy. E. D. Nauman (1930b) found a thrasher incubating on its nest, with two of its own eggs and two of the cardinal under it. The cardinal's eggs were evidently deposited about a week after incubation had begun on the thrasher's eggs, for the next time he visited the nest it contained two young thrashers and two eggs of the cardinal, on which the latter bird was incubating. This nest also came to grief.
Dr. Erwin (1935) gives a very full account of the building of the nest, in which both birds take part, and a good description of the composition of the nest:
The later nests were more poorly constructed than the earlier ones. Five to seven days were usually required for the construction of the earlier nests, while only three to four days were required for the later ones. It also seemed that the type of location of the nest had something to do with the amount of materials used.
Twenty-three nests were carefully examined to discover the architecture and materials of construction. The nests were composed of four concentric layers, or baskets. The first basket was composed entirely of twigs, usually from four to twelve inches long and from 1/16 to 1/4 of an inch in diameter. The second basket was composed principally of dead leaves. A few pieces of paper, thin bark, and tiny twigs were sometimes used. The third basket was composed of tiny twigs and grass stems. In a few of the later nests this basket was almost completely lacking. The fourth basket, or lining, was usually composed of well-cleaned rootlets, mostly from grasses. In a few cases petioles of the Honey Locust were used exclusively.
He gives an account of the building operations in too great detail to be quoted here. The birds had considerable difficulty in carrying the twigs through the thickly entwined branches of the shrubbery; often the twigs were left hanging where they were caught, and sometimes they were recovered but sometimes not. When the female apparently discovered a desirable place, "with her bill she pushed the twigs closer together, then got on the thickly matted stems and began the movements in which many birds engage during nest building. She intermittently lowered her head, relaxed her wings, and with rapid jerks shifted her feet sidewise." This method of nest-shaping was continued with each of the successive layers. At one nest he noted that the female made 28 and the male 21 trips to the nest between 2:45 and 4:40 p.m.
Soon after the young have left the first nest, the female starts building a second nest, leaving the male to care for the first brood of young. At one nest the young left the nest on May 5, and on May 10 the female was discovered putting the lining into the second nest. Another female was seen completing a second nest 11 days after the young had left the first nest. Mr. Saunders tells me that a pair that he watched "produced a brood of young successfully, which left the nest on June 15. On June 17 they began a second nest. Incubation of the second set began on June 24."
Nesting sites in the South are apparently similar to those in the Midwest--hedges, shrubbery, brush heaps, thickets, grapevine tangles, vines, and trees. A. H. Howell (1932) states that "Nicholson found a number of nests at Orlando [Florida] in oak and orange trees, 8 to 20 feet above the ground." Frederick V. Hebard mentions in his notes from southeastern Georgia a nest in a "sea-myrtle bush about 20 inches above ground. This nest was badly constructed of dried grass supported by twigs, one of which was over 14 inches long. Corn husks were in the nest. The nest had an inside diameter of 3 3/4 inches, an inside depth of seven-eighths inch, and an outside depth of 3 3/4 inches." Another nest was in a camphor tree, 7 feet above ground.
Eggs.--Nearly all the nests of the brown thrasher of which I have record contained either 4 or 5 eggs, generally 4; the one set of 6 eggs in my collection was evidently the product of 2 females. Eggs were laid in 52 of the nests examined by Dr. Erwin (1935) in Tennessee; 31 contained 4 eggs, 13 contained 3 eggs, 7 contained 5 eggs, and one contained only 2 eggs. Six eggs have been recorded.
The eggs are not handsome, but they show considerable variation in color and shape; they are usually ovate, but some are somewhat elongated and some are short-ovate. The ground color is very pale blue, bluish white, or white, with sometimes a greenish tinge. They are usually rather evenly covered, more or less thickly, with very small spots or fine dots of reddish brown or duller browns. Sometimes the markings are so small, scarce, and faint as to make the egg appear almost white. Very rarely a set of eggs is immaculate. Occasionally the markings are grouped in a ring around one end. A rare and handsome type has a darker green ground color, with bright reddish spots.
The measurements of 50 eggs in the United States National Museum average 26.5 by 19.4 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 30.2 by 19.8, 26.7 by 21.3, and 21.3 by 16.3 millimeters.
Young.--The period of incubation is stated by several observers to vary from 11 to 14 days, according to weather temperatures and other conditions. Dr. Erwin (1935) says: "Of the 32 nests in which eggs were laid on Peabody Campus, only 17 were successfully incubated. Nine of these required a period of 13 days, six 12 days, one 11 days, and one 14 days. The set of eggs which required 14 days was in an early nest." Both sexes shared the duties of incubation. During a period of 14 hours 15 minutes, the female incubated 9 hours 11 minutes; and the male sat 3 hours 51 minutes, about 27 percent of the total time, perhaps to give the female a chance to feed. "For 12 successful nests on Peabody Campus, the average nestling period was 11 days. Two of the nests had young with a nestling period of 13 days. Both of these nests were early. The nestling period for one nest was 12 days, for four 11 days, for four, 10 days, and for one, 9 days."
He noted that both parents helped to feed the young in the nests. A total of 8 hours 6 minutes on parts of five days was spent in observation of the feeding process at two nests. He says:
During this period, the different females made a total of 40 trips to the nest with food, and the males, 31 trips. This food consisted almost entirely of white grubs, soft caterpillars, and earth worms. A small part of the time was spent in brooding, this duty being shared by both male and female. Most of the periods of brooding occurred in the early morning when the weather was cool and the young still were without a full coating of feathers. On one occasion the female, being unable to cover the five young, used her bill to pull them toward her. Both male and female always inspected the nest for excreta before going on to brood. Excretion always occurred immediately after the nestling, or nestlings, were fed. The excreta was encased in a transparent bag, which prevented it from soiling the nest while being removed. The excreta from the very young birds was almost always eaten, while that from the older nestlings was usually carried away and dropped. . . .
In cases where a second nest was built after young were successfully brought off the preceding nest, the female remained to help care for the young only a few days, after which she built the second nest without assistance of the male, his duty being to care for the nestlings. There were only two nests in which this occurred during the year. The other nestlings were brought off too late, due to previous failures, for the adults to build another nest. In two instances where the female did not build another nest after the young were brought off, the young were divided, the male taking a part of the young, and the female the remainder. Also in these two instances, the territory was also divided. . . . After the first brood of young became independent, it seemed that the male returned to assist the female in care of the second brood.
Dr. Ira N. Gabrielson (1912) made a careful study of a brood of young brown thrashers in Iowa; the nest was on the ground, which he remarked was unusual; when it was discovered, on June 17, it held four young, "not more than 24 hours old," and an addled egg; a blind was set up near the nest and observations began on June 23 and continued until the young left the nest on June 28. He says:
[On June 23] the afternoon was hot and sultry and the nest was in such a position as to be exposed to the hot rays of the sun. One or the other of the old birds brooded almost all of the time. During the afternoon, the male brooded once for a period of 26 minutes and the female for 20 minutes, but the periods as a rule were short, being from 2 to 5 minutes in length. At about 2 o'clock the shadow of an oak tree was thrown on the nest and the old birds ceased brooding. . . . There was a marked difference in the position assumed by the male and female in brooding. The male sat on the edge of the nest with his feathers ruffled up, or stood in the nest in much the same posture, affording very poor protection for the young as compared with that given by the female. She spread her wings, ruffled her feathers, and stood in such a position as to completely shade the nest.
He made a careful record of the food given to the young and published a long list of insects, larvae, spiders, and worms supplied. "The four insects consumed in the largest quantities were found to be as follows: grasshoppers 247, Mayflies 425, moths 237, and cutworms 103. Two of these, at least, are positively destructive insects; and in the summer of 1911 the grasshoppers were almost a plague in parts of northern Iowa. Many fields of grain were destroyed and many more were cut green to prevent destruction, making the oats light weight and poor quality. The grasshoppers stripped the oats from the straw by cutting the stem of each grain. This was done while the grain was in the milk, so it was a total loss."
A record was kept of the number of feedings by each parent each day; the longest and largest record was made on June 27; from 3:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. the male fed the young 98 times and the female fed them 186 times, or a total of 286 feedings, including twice that the young were fed without the sex of the parent being known. In order to determine the quantity of food received by each nestling, the young birds were marked with green, orange, blue, and white thread. "From June 26 at 4:11 p.m., until Green left the nest on the 28th, at 12:19 p.m., he was fed 152 times; Orange 142 times; White 169 times; and Blue 133 times. Orange was a small and active bird; White was large and inactive, but seemingly possessed plenty of strength; Blue was weak and timid." The total amount distributed during this time, parts of 3 days, was 976 insects, or an average of 219 to each young bird. Gabrielson continues:
Sometimes it seemed as if chance determined which individual would receive the morsel, and at other times looked as if there were other factors. There seemed to be a tendency to feed the one nearest the parent bird, and, as the old birds almost invariably approached the nest from the south, it would follow that the nestling on that side would get the most food. However that may be, the young were constantly trying to get to that side of the nest. One would no sooner get into place on that side than another would crowd him out. This was not always the case, for at times the parents would reach over and feed those on the farther side. Again it seemed as if the nestling that made the greatest disturbance received the food.
The nest was kept scrupulously clean through the efforts of both parents; on June 27, from 3:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., the nest was cleaned 18 times by the male and 38 times by the female.
Three interesting facts were noted in connection with the passage of the excreta: viz., the young birds made no attempt to void the excreta except when one of the parent birds was present; second, only one of the nestlings voided the excreta at any one visit of the parent birds; and third, almost always the bird fed, or if two were fed, one of the two voided the excreta. . . . The results of these observations seem to indicate that the feeding may possibly be the direct stimulus to the voiding of the excreta, as out of a possible 112 times 104 sacs of excreta were removed from the nestling receiving the food at that visit, while only eight were removed from different birds. The parents always stopped a few seconds after feeding, possibly waiting for the appearance of an excreta sac. In the case of the nestling voiding the excreta, there were usually some premonitory signs: viz., general uneasiness, ruffling the feathers, and flirting the tail. Then followed the elevating of the posterior end of the body, and as the sac came away the parent bird seized it and either devoured it or carried it away. . . . It would seem. . .that about the eighth or ninth day the old birds ceased devouring the excreta and commenced to carry it away. . . .
At about noon, June 28, the young birds became very restless, especially Green and Orange. They were continually crawling out of the nest and back again. At 12:30 p.m. Green crawled out of the nest and sat chirping for a short time. He then spread his wings and made an attempt to fly, but only succeeded in going a few inches. Immediately on falling he commenced to hop rapidly away; stopping a short interval at a fence about 10 feet distant. One of the old birds returned at this time and coaxed him along until he reached the top of a little hill some 60 yards away. . . . At 2:10, Orange left the nest in much the same way. The male went with him and by coaxing him a short way at a time soon had the second nestling on the little knoll occupied by Green. The male busied himself the rest of the day caring for these two while the female fed White and Blue in the nest.
The next morning White started away at 7:07 and was coaxed along by the female for about 30 yards. Blue remained alone in the nest until 7:45, being fed only once in the interval, though White was fed three times. 7:45 Blue left the nest, but no parent bird returned to aid in the journey as long as the observations were continued. At 8:15, when the observations ceased, Blue was still alone in the grass. Later all four fledglings were found in the ravine nearby. They were noticed here several times, July 25 being the latest date on which they were positively identified.
Amelia R. Laskey tells me that "a fledgling fed by hand, but given freedom, was noted singing a very soft song on July 24, when 44 days old. This song was similar to the autumn singing heard each year in August and September in the garden."
A. L. Pickens sends me the following note on the method used by a thrasher in coaxing its young from the nest: "The young had been hatched in a rose vine at the edge of our front porch and were at that stage where they could clamber out of the nest and perch in the surrounding vines. They could not fly, but the old bird seemed anxious to have them leave a spot so frequently examined by human eyes. Coaxing having failed, the parent resorted to strategy. She came to the nest with a small piece of paper so folded and compressed together as to resemble, especially in size, the morsels of food usually brought to the young. This she held temptingly first above one young one's mouth, then above another's. But as the young beaks were expectantly extended she raised or withdrew the bogus morsel still farther away. Then she flew away to a short distance still temptingly holding the bit of paper. At last one of her offspring, fluttering and clambering, dropped to the ground, and she began leading it along a route that led through the yard and grove, evidently to the denser growth of a small wood nearby. Fearing for the young's safety I captured it and brought it back to the nest amid angry protests from the parent. In this outburst she dropped her imitation morsel, and I took particular pains to carefully retrieve and examine it."
Plumages.--I have not seen any young brown thrashers in natal down. The juvenal plumage is softer and looser, less compact, and easily recognized. It resembles the adult plumage in pattern but is paler and duller throughout; the top of the head is darker and the rump lighter, and all of the upper surface is more or less streaked or spotted with dusky; the wing bars are buffy, and the tertials are edged and tipped with buffy; the underparts are dull white, the streaks and spots being more numerous and less sharply defined. The iris in the young bird is gray.
A postjuvenal molt occurs in late summer or early fall, beginning the last of July, and involving the contour plumage and most of the wing coverts, but not the rest of the wings or the tail. This produces a first winter plumage, which is practically indistinguishable from that of the adult at the same season.
Adults have one complete annual molt, the postnuptial, in July and August. In fresh fall plumage the colors are darker and richer than they are in spring, the upper surface being deep cinnamon-rufous, and on the lower surface the throat, sides, and crissum are washed with ochraceous-buff; the wing coverts are cinnamon-rufous, and the wing bands are buffy white. There is no evidence of a spring molt, but wear and fading are considerable, the buffy shades disappearing and the whole plumage becoming more or less ragged before midsummer. The sexes are alike in all plumages.
An examination of 266 stomachs of the bird from various parts of the country was made by Prof. F. E. L. Beal of the Biological Survey, and it showed that the food consisted of 37.38 percent vegetable and 62.62 percent animal food, the latter nearly all insects. The insect food was rather evenly divided among the various orders. Beetles were eaten regularly the year round. Such pests as May beetles, white grubs, twelve-spotted cucumber beetles, many weevils, including the cotton-boll weevil, curculios, snap-beetles and wire-worms, rose-beetles, strawberry-crown girdlers and wood-boring beetles, caterpillars, including canker-worms, army-worms, cut-worms and hairy caterpillars such as the tent and gipsy caterpillars, also bugs of many kinds, especially those that eat berries, also leaf-hoppers, tree-hoppers and cicadas, quantities of grasshoppers and locusts and many crickets are eaten, also many of the ants that destroy timber. A small proportion of beneficial ground-beetles are taken, and very few wasps and bees; daddy-long-legs, sow-bugs, small batrachians, lizards and snakes are taken more or less.
Professor Beal (Beal, McAtee, and Kalmbach, 1916) says that beetles form the largest item in the thrasher's food, 18.14 percent; caterpillars come next, 5.95 percent; other insects are eaten in much smaller quantities, as are also spiders, myriapods, crawfish, snails, and angleworms. "Bones of lizards, salamanders, and tree frogs (in all, 0.92 percent) were found in 11 stomachs." He gives the thrasher credit for destroying only 2.43 percent of the grasshoppers and crickets for the year, with a maximum of 8.5 percent in September, whereas Dr. Gabrielson (1912) says that, at the time of his study in Iowa, 20 percent of the food of old and young thrashers consisted of grasshoppers.
On the vegetable food, Professor Beal (1916) writes:
The vegetable food of this bird is nearly equally divided between fruit and a number of other substances, of which mast is the most prominent. Wild fruit, the largest item in the vegetable portion (19.94 percent), was eaten every month in varying quantities, the month of maximum consumption (45.69 percent) being September; January and February, with dried-up fruit from the last summer's crop, stand next. Altogether about 30 species of wild fruits or berries were identified in the stomachs. Those most eaten are blueberries, huckleberries, holly berries, elderberries, pokeberries, hackberries, Virginia creeper, and sour gum. Some seeds not properly classified as "fruit" were found, as bayberry, sumac--including some of the poisonous species--pine, and sweet gum.
Domestic fruit, or what was called such, was found in nine months, from April to the end of the year, most of it (53.19 percent) in July. Raspberries or blackberries, currants, grapes, cherries, and strawberries were positively identified by their seeds, but as all of these grow wild, it is probable that much that is conventionally termed domestic fruit is really from uncultivated plants. The aggregate for the year is 12.42 percent.
Mast, principally acorns, was estimated at 23.72 percent for the year, and grain only 2.57 percent. "The grain was nearly all corn, with a little wheat, but from the season in which it was taken most of it evidently was waste." The thrasher has been accused of pulling up planted corn, but this is probably local and restricted to a few individual birds.
W. L. McAtee (1926a) mentions some additional insects, eaten by the thrasher, that are injurious to wood lots, such as nut weevils, the wild cherry-leave weevil (Epicaerus imbricatus), oak weevil (Eupsalis minuta), and the yellow-necked caterpillar (Datana ministra); and, also to the above lists, he adds the Japanese beetle, clover-root weevil, billbugs, and the chinch bug, as of more interest to the agriculturalist.
The brown thrasher spends most of its time on or near the ground and obtains the greater part of its food there. One may often be seen foraging among the fallen leaves on the ground under trees or shrubs, or in more open spaces. It apparently seldom scratches for its food, as do the fox sparrow and the towhee, but uses its long, strong bill much as a haymaker uses a pitchfork in spreading hay; thus, with powerful sidewise strokes, it sends the leaves flying in all directions, and then stops to pick up what desirable morsels it finds beneath them. In this way it works diligently over considerable ground, occasionally picking up a leaf to cast it aside but more often pitching them away with its closed bill. Some writers have suggested that his name may have come from this habit of thrashing about among the leaves and rubbish; another suggestion is that his habit of thrashing large insects or other prey on the hard ground to kill or mutilate them has suggested the name; a still more fanciful notion came from someone who had been thrashed by the bird in defense of its nest.
Milton P. Skinner (1928) writes of its feeding habits in North Carolina:
One was seen that picked the ground for a time and then alternated its picking strokes with some sidewise scoops of its bill. Later it ran swiftly along for 6 feet and caught an insect that was flying low. Another Thrasher was seen making flycatcher-like sallies from the ground, and later from well up in an oak. They sometimes chase lively, erratic insects through the grass, and at other times adopt the Flicker method of digging down a good inch and a half into the sandy soil, probably for grubs. Brown Thrashers sometimes pick up acorns and carry them away in their bills, and later open them as the Jays do. But they are ground birds, unlike the Jays, and when they try to split the shell from an acorn by pile-driver blows, they often drive the acorn down into the soft ground. In spite of this difficulty, they persevere and the shell eventually flies off. I have seen one eat a shelled acorn in a few bites. Apparently, acorns are an essential part of their winter food.
He says that thrashers "occasionally fly up on the weed stalks and pluck the seeds direct" and also that they are very fond of sumac berries; one "ate for some minutes, quite stripping the head of all fruit; then rested a few minutes before eating another score of the berries." He adds that they sometimes eat persimmons and smilax berries but found that sumac berries were a favorite food in December.
Behavior.--As suggested by Miss Sherman (1912) and as mentioned in the first part of this account, there seems to be some variation in the general behavior and in the disposition of the brown thrasher in New England from what has been noted in the Midwest and South. In Massachusetts I have always regarded it as a shy, retiring, and somewhat unfriendly bird, shunning human society and especially hostile to the intruder near its nest. In other parts of the country, it seems to be more sociable, more friendly, and more inclined to make its home in parks in towns and villages, or even cities, in gardens, orchards, and close to human dwellings. These are not, however, hard and fast rules, for there are exceptions in both cases.
The thrasher is one of the most valiant and aggressive defenders of its nest and young among all our small birds, exhibiting the greatest bravery and boldness. While the late Herbert K. Job and I were photographing birds near West Haven, Conn., on June 5, 1910, we found a thrasher brooding her young in a nest 5 feet from the ground in a thick bush. She allowed Mr. Job to stroke her on the nest before she left and then set up a loud cry of protest and defiance, which soon brought her mate to join in the attack. As I attempted to examine the young, both birds flew at me and attacked me savagely; they flew at my face, once striking a stinging blow close to my eye and drawing blood; within a few seconds I was struck on the side of my head, and we decided to withdraw from the scene of the battle, leaving the brave birds masters of the situation. Mr. Job had had a similar experience with fighting thrashers a few years previously; they attacked his hands when he attempted to touch the young, and scratched and bit holes through the skin.
Mrs. Amelia R. Laskey, of Nashville, Tenn., writes to me: "Almost all brown thrashers show much concern when I look into the nest or remove young for banding. Most of them scold or squeal excruciatingly as if suffering intense pain. I have found several individuals that were very pugnacious in attacking me and very bold in their close approach. One bird struck the top of my head with great force, apparently striking with both feet. Another made a swift stab at my temple, striking with its beak with such force as to draw blood. Another attacked the hand, removing and replacing the young for banding purposes, with such venom that drops of blood stood on several fingers from jabs made by its beak."
Mr. DuBois tells me of one that attacked him, alighting on his back and swooping down repeatedly to strike his hat. And there are other reports of similar behavior toward human and other enemies. Dr. B. H. Warren (1888) writes: "When their home is invaded by a black snake, they assail such intruder in a most vigorous manner. I once saw a dog, which had upset a nest containing young Thrushes, forced to make a speedy retreat when attacked by the old birds who flew at his head and struck him in the eyes." Dr. T. M. Brewer wrote to him as follows:
I found a nest containing three eggs, which I removed, leaving in their places three Robin's eggs, and retired to wait the issue. In a few moments the female approached, gave the contents of the nest a hasty survey, and immediately flew off. She returned in a short time in company with her mate, and both flew to the nest apparently in the greatest rage, took each an egg in their claws, and dashed it against the ground at a distance of more than a rod from the nest, the female repeating the same to the other egg. This done, they continued for some time to vent their rage on the broken eggs, tossing them about, and at the same time manifesting their displeasure in every possible way. They afterwards forsook the nest.
But not all thrashers are too shy, hostile, or vindictive. In regions where they are closely associated with human activities, notably in the Midwest, some individuals have become quite tame and friendly, come freely to feeding stations, bathe in bird baths, and have on rare occasions been induced to feed from human hands (see Bird-Lore, vol. 10, p. 253, and vol. 20, p. 299). Sidney E. Ekblaw (1918) reports the following interesting experience:
It was in the latter half of June that the brown thrasher first appeared at our home near Rantoul, Ill. My mother and sister were at work on the back porch when the bird alighted on the ground. Its apparent tameness attracted their attention, and when it flew to a nearby fence-post my sister went out to it. When she approached, the bird flew to her shoulder, where it stayed contentedly for at least 3 minutes.
For 2 days it stayed about the place, not in the least afraid, in no wise concerned about household activities carried on about it. It allowed the various members of the family to pet it, while it perched upon an arm or shoulder; it ate cherries that my brother fed it, while he held it in his hand; and it showed not the least objection to having its picture taken. The second day it disappeared and we saw it no more.
The brown thrasher lives in the lower levels of the trees and shrubbery, except when it mounts to the top of some outstanding tree to sing its springtime challenge. It is especially at home upon the ground, where it probably spends most of its time, walking or running with short easy strides, or hopping about when in no hurry. If necessary it can run quite fast to catch some insect prey; or it can cover considerable ground with a series of long high hops, where walking or running is not convenient. The use of its strong bill to obtain its food is explained in the section headed "Food."
Its flight is rather slow and, apparently, heavy; its short wings are not adapted for swift or protracted flight; it usually flies low and not for any great distances unless in crossing an open field or a river. We often see the long, brown bird in the middle of a country road, taking a dust bath in some dusty hollow, or picking up the grain in scattered horse droppings; when thus disturbed, it spreads its long, handsome tail, makes a short low flight, and disappears in the roadside shrubbery or glides over the top of a half-hidden stone wall and swoops down into cover. It is equally at home in the thickets, running to cover when approached and dodging skillfully through the brier tangles to escape.
Mr. Skinner (1928) says: "They are very fond of bathing, especially when the weather gets warm in spring. In earthenware saucers, they will bathe when it is as cold as 55o F., and when it is warmer they bathe regularly twice a day. But they do not stop taking shower-baths just because artificial baths are available. They are even out in steady rains, thoroughly shaking themselves as the heavy raindrops soak their plumage."
We do not know yet how long birds may live, as we have not been banding birds long enough, or extensively enough, to be sure that we have trapped the oldest bird. Several brown thrashers have been reported as from 8 to 10 years old, but the oldest one seems to be the bird reported by Miss Marion A. Boggs (1939) which, on the eleventh return, was at least 13 years old.
Voice.--The brown thrasher is one of our best and most spectacular singers; his loud, striking spring song, once heard, can never be forgotten. Almost every writer on American birds has commented on it and most favorably.
Dr. Winsor M. Tyler has given me his impression of it as follows: "The song of the brown thrasher is a brilliant performance, equaled, if judged solely by its technical skill, by few North American birds, and surpassed by perhaps only one, the mockingbird. Indeed, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the song of a thrasher, if an exceptionally fine singer, from that of a mockingbird.
"The thrasher's song is made up of a long series of short, sparkling phrases given rapidly, sometimes repeated two or three times in quick succession, but as the song goes on it displays a great variety of phrases. To sing, the thrasher mounts to a conspicuous perch where, with the tail pointing to the ground, a characteristic pose of the wrens while singing, he devotes himself to his song, pouring out his loud, spirited concert, like a vocalist singing a solo.
"In Massachusetts the thrasher sings from its arrival late in April, with marked diminution during the nesting season, to the first week in July. After this time it becomes silent and inconspicuous, and we see it chiefly as a flash of cinnamon as it retires into the shrubbery."
Dr. Charles W. Townsend (1924) writes the following appreciative note on the thrasher's song:
The Brown Thrasher, a near relative of the Mockingbird, has a more continuous song and, at its best, one of great beauty and power not marred by harsh or disagreeable notes. His song consists of a series of couplets with here and there an enthusiastic triplet or even a quadruplet. It is an inventive song. He is consistently improvising, but there is often the suggestion of mimicry as the song wanders on and new phrases appear and are repeated. It is rare, however, that one can recognize the source of the mimicry. I have detected the call of the Bob-white and the melody of the Robin, the Bobolink and the Veery, but mimicry is not needed to complete the perfection of his song. He generally avoids vulgar plagiarism, but doubtless profits by the musical suggestions of other birds.
W. L. McAtee (1940b) says: "I was much interested in the opportunity afforded me near Vienna, Va., in June 1940 to make observations on the mimicking thrasher (Toxostoma rufum). On a few occasions the song, beginning with imitations of some shrill-noted species suggested that of a Mockingbird until it lapsed into the gutturals and more deliberate phrasing characteristic of the thrasher's music. The birds that were imitated were all species commonly heard on the spot and included the Flicker, Cardinal, Tufted Titmouse, Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Wood Thrush."
Aretas A. Saunders says: "The thrasher does not imitate birds frequently, and I believe only a few individuals do so, whereas many catbirds and practically all mockingbirds do so. I have heard the thrasher imitate the phoebe, robin, wood thrush, white-eyed vireo, red-winged blackbird, Baltimore oriole, vesper sparrow, and field sparrow.
"The song of the brown thrasher is similar to those of the mockingbird and catbird. Although the songs of the three eastern species are much alike in form, there are great differences in the seasons of song. The brown thrasher has the shortest period of all. The song ceases, according to my records, on an average date of July 11. The earliest date is July 6, 1921, and the latest July 18, 1940. When nesting begins individuals stop stinging, so that the song is never so abundant late in May and in June as it is late in April and early in May. Birds usually sing until the eggs are laid and then cease until the young are out of the nest. Sometimes the second-brood nesting follows the first so quickly that there is no singing between broods.
"The limits of pitch in the songs in my records are B'' to C'''', one octave and three tones, and curiously just a half tone lower, in both lowest and highest limits, than my catbird records.
"Alarm notes about the nest consist of a loud call much like the sound of a kiss, a whistled call like teeola, and a series of harsh, slurred calls, like teea teea, repeated six to ten times, gradually becoming higher in pitch and louder." The kiss note is a loud smack, or sucking kiss, something like the sound made by the clicking of a heavy pair of pruning shears, a most startling sound for a bird to make and perhaps effective in frightening away small enemies. The thrasher also makes a local hissing sound about its nest.
Amelia R. Laskey writes to me from Tennessee: "There are lovely 'whisper' songs given in both spring and autumn. The late songs of the season are given in August and September. For September 10, 1935, I have the following note: A brown thrasher sang almost an hour in very soft tone. It consisted mostly of low warblings but often contained phrases similar to spring songs, all very clear, but inaudible a few feet away from the singer. September 14: The 'whisper' songs continue. The bird was perched today in shrubs about 3 or 4 feet from the ground. It sang with closed beak. The song had overtones with undertones of soft warbling, giving the impression at times of a duet."
The soft courtship songs, given while the birds are hunting nesting sites, have been referred to under "Courtship." Mrs. Laskey has observed this twice when she could see both birds.
There are very few birds whose songs can be well expressed, or accurately recalled to mind, by the use of human words or phrases, but it seems to me that the brown thrasher is one of them. The oft-quoted words, "drop it, drop it--cover it up, cover it up--pull it up, pull it up, pull it up," first written, I believe by Thoreau in his "Walden," as fancied advice to a farmer planting his corn, recall to my mind most vividly the theme and the tempo of the thrasher's song, and I fancy that I can see him perched on top of a tall birch tree beside the plowed lot. Many other wordings have been attributed to this most versatile bird, but there is not room to quote them all here. One of the most elaborate versions is given by Mrs. H. P. Cook (1929) as one end of a telephone conversation, like this: "Hello, hello, yes, yes, yes, Who is this? Who is this? Well, well, well, I should say, I should say, How's that? How's That? I don't know, I don't know, What did you say? What did you say? Certainly, Certainly, Well, well, well, Not that I know of, Not that I know of, Tomorrow? Tomorrow? I guess so, I guess so, All right, All right, Goodbye, Goodbye." F. Schuyler Mathews (1921) suggests the following advice to the farmer: "Shuck it, shuck it; sow it, sow it; Plough it, plough it; hoe it, hoe it." All these interpretations seem to suggest the song that Forbush (1929) describes as "a succession of phrases of two to four syllables, loud, clear, rich, musical and of great variety, each one delivered as a positive statement complete in itself, and unrelated to the rest, with a brief pause after it." Mrs. Nice (1931) made the following careful observation: "On April 1, 1926 I noted the number of times a Thrasher repeated each phrase and found the scheme less regular than I had suspected; it went thus: 2, 1, 2, 3, 2, 1, 2, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 3, 3, 1, 2, 2, 2, 3, 1, 3, 4, 2, 3, 1, 3, 4, 2, 3, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 1."
Tilford Moore, of St. Paul, Minn., tells me that, on April 30, 1941, he saw a thrasher singing as it flew between two perches; it did this twice.
Field marks.--A brown thrasher could hardly be mistaken for any other bird within its range. It is a long, slim bird with a long tail, bright reddish brown above, with two whitish wing bars on each wing, whitish beneath, streaked with blackish, a long bill and glaring yellow eyes.
Enemies.--Nesting as it does on or near the ground, the eggs and young of the thrasher are particularly vulnerable to the attacks of prowling predators, such as dogs, cats, foxes, raccoons, skunks, weasels, probably squirrels, and snakes. Crows, blue jays, and perhaps grackles may rob the nests, if they can find them. Hawks, especially the accipiters, may kill a few adults, though the thrashers are quite expert in dashing into thick bushes and hiding. I have several records of cowbirds' eggs in thrasher nests, but Dr. Friedmann (1929) calls the thrasher "a decidedly uncommon victim of the Cowbird. The species is the largest passerine bird affected by the parasite, and is the largest bird definitely known to have hatched and reared a young Cowbird. J. A. Allen saw a female Brown Thrasher feeding a nearly full grown Cowbird in Western Iowa in 1868. . . . As far as I know, the late Dr. Allen's observation has remained unique to this day." Tilford Moore saw a thrasher feeding three young cowbirds.
Audubon's spirited plate shows a thrasher's nest being attacked by a blacksnake, with several thrashers rallying to the rescue. He (1841b) reports that the snake was finally killed and one injured bird rescued. I once saw a pair of thrashers making a great fuss around a bunch of oak scrub, where I soon discovered the cause of their anxiety; a large blacksnake was coiled about their nest and had evidently swallowed the eggs or young, as the nest was empty. I tried to kill the snake, but the underbrush was too thick and it escaped.
Thrashers are not immune from parasites, even while still in the egg. Bagg and Eliot (1937) publish the following note from Lewis O. Shelley:
The Thrasher is an uncommon summer resident here [Westmoreland, N.H.], and it is a curious fact that, of all the nests I have seen, each one harbored one or more "wormy" eggs. Outwardly seeming in perfect shape and condition, an egg turned over might reveal a neat round hole, one mm. in diameter, bored in the under side, or more than one such hole. I found that, if blown, the egg-shell crumbled after a short time, due to the lining being eaten together with the yolk and albumen. By dissecting two eggs from a nest of half-fledged young, I found the grubs to be small white oval shapeless forms capable of great elongation when feeding and very closely resembling, while smaller, the Tachinids that so commonly sting larvae of various Saturniidae caterpillars; but the mature insect is more closely akin, in form, to the Hymenoptera or membranous-winged flies, with well-developed maxilliae, probably the organ wherewith the parasite drills an exit through the egg-shell when the time arrives. It is notable that this parasite differs from the Tachinids in that it emerges at perfection and not as a grub.
Harold S. Peters (1936) lists three species of lice, five of mites, two of ticks, and one fly, as external parasites on the brown thrasher.
Winter.--The brown thrasher is a permanent resident throughout the southern portion of its range, but more or less migratory throughout the greater part of it. Most of the thrashers leave New England during fall, mainly in October, but there are a number of wintering records as far north as Massachusetts. Henry Nehrling (1893) gives a very good account of its migration and winter haunts:
Unobserved, silent usually from thicket to thicket, and in
bushes along streams and rivers, the Brown Thrush migrates
southward, ordinarily during October. The Southern States,
especially those bordering on the Gulf of Mexico, are the Brown
Thrasher's winter quarters. I have found the bird in southeastern
Texas from December to March. They usually remain near the water
where thicket succeeds thicket. They are especially common where
the magnolia, cherry-laurel, holly, dense blackberry and Mexican
mulberry bushes, Cherokee roses, and vines of many species, grow.
The ground swarms with insects of many kinds, the old leaves cover
larvae and snails, and the bushes are rich in berries. In these
thickets the Brown Thrush leads a very secluded existence, in
company with the Hermit Thrush, Towhee Buntings, White-crowned and
White-throated Sparrows, and others. It is here so shy and knows
so well how to screen itself from view that it is but rarely seen.
Here, its call-notes are seldom heard. In the dense hammock woods
of Florida, it is one of the most abundant winter birds. These
woods usually consist of large deciduous and evergreen trees, with
an undergrowth of low saw-palmettos, sparkleberry bushes, hollies,
similax, Carolina jasmine, and a host of other tropical species.
Brown Thrasher* Toxostoma rufum
*Original Source: Bent, Arthur Cleveland. 1948. Smithsonian Institution United States National Museum Bulletin 195: 351-374. United States Government Printing Office