Brown Thrasher

Photo by Jean Chamberlain
October 13, 2021
Long Creek Park

Mnemonics description of song

  • plant-a-seed, plant-a-seed, bury-it, bury-it, cover-it-up, cover-it-up, let-it-grow, let-it-grow, pull-it-up, pull-it-up, eat-it, eat-it, yum, yum (Thompson and Ely reported in Cavitt and Haas 2020)
  • drop-it, drop-it; cover-it-up, cover-it-up; pull-it-up pull-it-up
  • drop-it, drop-it; pick-it-up, pick-it-up

What do we know about brown thrasher song?


  • Large repertoire of over 1000 songs (Boughey and Thompson 1981)
  • Long series of extremely variable elements
  • Whether continuously improvise or learn new songs is not known (Kroodsma 2020)
  • Repeats units in pairs
  • Whisper and soft courtship songs (Bent 1948b cited in Cavitt and Haas 2020 )
  • Only occasionally mimic other species (McAtee 1940b cited in
    Cavitt and Haas 2020 )


Countersing in early spring (Kroodsma and Parker 1977)


  • Apparently do not sing (Erwin 1935 cited in Cavitt and Haas 2020 )

How and when is song acquired?

  • Males only sing primary song in spring so young do not hear adult song in first summer
  • Mechanism for development of repertoires is unknown

How can we facilitate learning?

  • House outside with singing adults of many species
  • Exposure to singing brown thrasher adults not thought to be necessary


Bent, A. C. (1948). Life histories of North American nuthatches, wrens, thrashers, and their allies. United States National Museum Bulletin 195.

Boughey, M. J. and N. S. Thompson. (1981). Song variety in the Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum). Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie 56:47-58.

Cavitt, J. F. and C. A. Haas (2020). Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Erwin, W. G. (1935). Some nesting habits of the Brown Thrasher. Journal of the Tennessee Academy of Science 10:179-204.

Evans, D. L. (1984a). Reactions of some adult passerines to Bombus pennsylvanicus and its mimic, Mallota bautias. Ibis 126:50-58.

Kroodsma, D. E. and L. D. Parker. (1977). Vocal virtuosity in the Brown Thrasher. Auk 94:783-785.

McAtee, W. L. (1940b). Mimicry by a Brown Thrasher. Auk 57:574.

Thompson, M. C., and C. Ely (1992). Birds in Kansas, Volume II. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History 12, Lawrence, KS, USA.