What is the State Bird of Georgia? (And Why?)

The Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) may seem like an unlikely choice as the state bird of Georgia as there are many more colorful songbirds common to Georgia to choose from. But, once you know a little more about this unique bird and how it was chosen as the state bird of Georgia you will have a better understanding of the reasons behind this seemingly peculiar choice.

When did the Brown Thrasher become the Georgia state bird?

The first attempt at declaring the Brown Thrasher the state bird of Georgia was made in 1928 by a group of school children who voted the bird as their number one choice.

According to some sources, the red-headed woodpecker was also considered but was abandoned because local tree owners objected to the choice. It is not known whether the children selected the Brown Thrasher on their own or whether they were presented with several options to choose from. At any rate, their voices were supported by the State Federation of Women's Clubs and the Atlanta Bird Club. The bill to declare the Brown Thrasher the state bird of Georgia was soon introduced, but it failed to be acted on at the time.

In 1935, Governor Eugene Talmadge declared the Brown Thrasher the state bird of Georgia via a proclamation. The Brown Thrasher did not become the official state bird of Georgia until some 35 years later when, through the support of the Garden Clubs of Georgia, the resolution was presented to and passed by the Georgia General Assembly on March 20, 1970.

The delay in inducting the Brown Thrasher as the official state bird was due in part to others claiming the quail should be the state bird, but this was met with opposition as many did not feel right about people shooting and eating the state bird. As a result, the March 20, 1970 resolution also designated the quail as the state's official game bird.

Brown Thrasher perched

Brown Thrasher perched

Why is the Brown Thrasher the state bird for Georgia?

Little is known about why the Brown Thrasher was chosen as Georgia's state bird, but it is presumed that the choice was made due to this bird's unique song. The Brown Thrasher has an impressive range of calls that mimics other birds and even makes a sound similar to a human kissing sound. According to The Cornell Lab, the Brown Thrasher has a repertoire of over 1,100 sounds. The Brown Thrasher tends to sing in phrases repeated twice and then moves on to another sound or phrase.

How Did the Brown Thrasher Get Its Name?

Once again, there appears to be some uncertainty about the origin of this lively little bird's name.

Some claim he earned the name from the way he twitches his tail that is similar to the action of a thresher used to remove the seeds from harvested stalks of grain. Others suggest the name arose from this bird's actions while searching for food under leaves and brush as he tends to flail and thrash, upturning leaves and soil in search of a tasty meal.

Either way, it seems the Brown Thrasher earned his name for his tendency to thrash around and stir up the area around him.

A brown thrasher feeding its young

A brown thrasher feeding its young

What Does the Brown Thrasher Look Like?

Catching a glimpse of the Brown Thrasher may be difficult as this bird is known to be rather shy and frequents areas under trees and shrubs where he is likely well camouflaged. But don't let his elusiveness fool you into thinking you should be on the lookout for a small songbird.

The Brown Thrasher is an impressive 9 to 12 inches in length, has rusty brown feathers covering his back and a distinct light belly marked with striking dark streaking. The Brown Thrasher has two black and white wing bars, piercing yellow eyes and a long, slightly curved bill. He tends to hold his long tail feathers upward. The male and female Brown Thrasher are identical in appearance.

How Do You Attract Brown Thrashers to Your Yard?

Brown Thrashers don't typically frequent bird feeders, but may feed under the feeder, especially if you offer mealworms to your backyard birds. They may also be attracted with dried berries and fruit. But the best way to entice the brown thrasher to your yard is to provide the natural habitat he craves. Try these tricks for attracting brown thrashers to your yard.

  • Plant shrubs and trees that produce berries and nuts. Those with thorns and dense foliage are preferred as they provide a place for the thrasher to hide from predators.
  • Create a brush pile. Brown Thrashers frequent brush piles to keep them safe from predators or for protection from harsh weather.
  • Allow old leaves to remain under shrubs and trees as they are the thrasher's favorite feeding ground.
  • Place a birdbath near the ground with water no deeper than 1.5 inches at its deepest part. A sloping bath is preferred. Brown Thrashers may visit pedestal birdbaths, but prefer them close to the ground or on ground level.
A brown thrasher on a suet feeder in the backyard

A brown thrasher on a suet feeder in the backyard

Interesting Facts About Brown Thrashers

  • Although the Brown Thrasher is a shy bird and tends to remain in dense foliage, that all changes when he has a nest to protect. He suddenly becomes aggressive and will drive away anyone or anything that threatens the nest.
  • Brown Thrashers are not good flyers and spend most of their time in shrubs and small trees or foraging for food under leaves and brush.
  • They may perch atop tall trees to sing.
  • Brown Thrashers stay with the same mate all season. It is not known if they remain monogamous for life as they tend to mate in areas with dense foliage away from the eyes of humans, making it difficult for scientists to study their mating habits.
  • The Brown Thrasher lays 3 to 6 eggs and may produce two clutches in a season.
  • Fledglings leave the nest in 9 to 13 days.

The Brown Thrasher may not be Georgia's most colorful songbird, but it makes up for its lack of color with its amazing range of vocalizations. Its striking yellow eyes and unusual foraging behavior also make this a bird worth seeking out.

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