The Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) is a sweet-singing but shy songbird from the Mimidae family. They are the only Thrasher in the central and eastern parts of the United States and are replaced by eight other species to the west and south.
Identifying the sex of these birds poses a great challenge for birdwatchers, so how do you tell female Brown Thrashers from their male counterparts?
Telling female from male Brown Thrashers is difficult because the sexes look alike, although females are less vocal and less aggressive than their male counterparts. The minor size differences are not visible, so bird watchers must rely on the bird’s behavior for clues about its sex.
The Brown Thrasher is the state bird of Georgia. You're most likely to spot these birds in dense, tangled vegetation or running around at lightning speed between shrubs and other foraging grounds. You might even be lucky enough to have these shy birds visit a bird feeder if you have the right habitat in your yard.
Read with us to learn all about the female Brown Thrasher, a secretive American songbird.
Both male and female Brown Thrashers share identical plumage
Male and female Brown Thrashers are difficult to distinguish because they have the same colors and markings. There are slight size differences, although these aren’t going to be much help for the average bird watcher.
Brown Thrashers are shy and elusive birds, but the males often give up their cover to sing loudly from tree tops. Females are far less outgoing, so look for them on the ground or in dense vegetation nearby.
Continue reading to learn more about the female Brown Thrasher appearance.
Behavior is the best way to distinguish female Brown Thrashers
Female Thrashers are large songbirds with long, powerfully built legs and long tails. They are a rich rufous-brown color above with a pair of pale stripes on either wing that is most distinct in flight. They have whitish underparts boldly marked with dark brown streaks on their chest and belly.
Female Brown Thrashers also have large, slightly down-curved bills and piercing yellow eyes. The sides of the head are grayish, and there is a faint mustache stripe.
They are very difficult to distinguish from males on looks alone, and they can be confused with other Thrashers, although they are the only species across most of their range.
Keep reading to learn how to distinguish Female Brown Thrashers from similar American birds.
Close up of a Brown Thrasher perched on a log
It is easy to confuse the Brown Thrasher with the Long-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma longirostre). These similar birds don’t usually occur together, although they overlap in parts of Texas. Identification can be difficult in these cases, although the Long-billed Thrasher has an orange (not yellow) eye and a more curved bill.
Female Brown Thrashers can also be confused with thrushes like the Veery, Hermit Thrush, and other Species from the Catharus genus.
The Wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) has the most similar colors and markings, although it is a smaller, more compact bird with black (not yellow) eyes and a shorter, straight bill.
In Texas, the Long-billed Thrasher can be mistaken for the Brown Thrasher
Male and female Brown Thrashers are very similar in size, although the males tend to be slightly bigger in most respects. The wings and bills differ the most on average, although this is not a very useful field marker for birdwatchers.
Pair of Brown Thrashers perched on a fence
The best way to identify female Brown Thrashers is by observing their behavior. They differ by being quieter and more secretive than their partners.
Males can be particularly aggressive towards other birds, animals, and even people when nesting. Females are less territorial, although they will chase off other trespassing females.
Brown Thrashers have some fascinating courtship behaviors, even if these rituals are difficult to observe. Either sex may present their partner with an offering of leaves or twigs before copulation.
Bluebird and a Brown Thrasher at a bird feeder
Brown Thrashers are terrific songbirds, even if they are a little underappreciated. These birds are accomplished mimics, although they usually sing their own songs. Brown Thrasher songs can be incredibly varied, although each phrase is often uttered twice before moving on to the next.
Female Brown Thrashers do not sing like the males, so their quiet ways make it much easier to say which Brown Thrashers are not female.
Brown Thrasher singing high up in a tree
Brown Thrashers are monogamous birds that partner and work together to raise their offspring. The Female Brown Thrasher lays three to five eggs in the summer in a well-hidden nest built together by both partners.
Both males and females feed and care for the chicks, which further adds to the challenge of determining their sex.
Only female Brown Thrashers develop a brood patch for incubating their eggs. Both partners assist in incubating the eggs for 11 to 14 days, although the female does about two-thirds of the work. Females usually spend more time brooding and sheltering the chicks than males.
A pair of Brown Thrashers gathering sticks to build the nest
It is unlikely that a female Brown Thrasher could raise her young alone, except perhaps if she lost her partner quite late in the nesting process. These birds rely on the help of their partner to choose a nest site, incubate the eggs, and feed the nestlings.
Female Brown Thrashers are a warm reddish brown color above with pale, whitish underparts. Their bills are black, their legs are yellowish, and their iris’ are a conspicuous yellow color.
Female Brown Thrashers call to signal alarm, agitation, or to keep in contact with their partner. Their fast, high-pitched call sounds a lot like a kiss. These birds produce a variety of different calls, however, including hissing and whistles.
Female Brown Thrashers usually do not sing, although they may sing softly to their mate when it is time to switch places at the nest. Males have a much more impressive repertoire that includes over a thousand songs, making them one of the most varied singers in the bird world.
Brown Thrashers feed primarily on insects, but they also eat fruits, nuts, and some seeds. Thrashers prefer to clean up below bird feeders, so spread food on the ground if you want to feed them specifically. Growing native berry-producing shrubs and providing mealworms are great ways to feed these shy but welcome songbirds.
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