Birds – Brown Thrasher

(Harporbynchus ruins)


Length-11 to 11.5 inches. Fully on inch longer than the robin.

Male—Rusty red-brown or rufous above ; darkest on wings, which have two short whitish bands. Underneath white, heavily streaked (except on throat) with dark-brown, arrow-shaped spots. Tail very long. Yellow eyes. Bill long and curved at tip.

Female—Paler than male.

Range—United States to Rockies. Nests from Gulf States to Manitoba and Montreal. Winters south of Virginia. Migrations—Late April. October. Common summer resident.

” There’s a merry brown thrush sitting up in a tree; He is singing to me ! He is singing to me ! And what does he say, little girl, little boy? ` Oh, the world’s running over with joy ! ”

The hackneyed poem beginning with this stanza that de-lighted our nursery days, has left in our minds a fairly correct impression of the bird. He still proves to be one of the perennially joyous singers, like a true cousin of the wrens, and when we study him afield, he appears to give his whole attention to his song with a self-consciousness that is rather amusing than the reverse. ” What musician wouldn’t be conscious of his own powers,” he seems to challenge us, “if he possessed such a gift?” Seated on a conspicuous perch, as if inviting attention to his performance, with uplifted head and drooping tail he repeats the one exultant, dashing air to which his repertoire is limited, with-out waiting for an encore. Much practice has given .the notes a brilliancy of execution to be compared only with the mocking-bird’s ; but in spite of the name “ferruginous mocking-bird ” that Audubon gave him, he does not seem to have the faculty of imitating other birds’ songs. Thoreau says the Massachusetts farmers, when planting their seed, always think they hear the thrasher say, ” Drop it, drop it—cover it up, cover it up—pull it up, pull it up, pull it up.”

One of the shatterings of childish impressions that age too often brings is when we learn by the books that our “merry brown thrush ” is no thrush at all, but a thrasher—first cousin to the wrens, in spite of his speckled breast, large size, and certain thrush-like instincts, such as never singing near the nest and shunning mankind in the nesting season, to mention only two. Certainly his bold, swinging flight and habit of hopping and running over the ground would seem to indicate that he is not very far removed from the true thrushes. But he has one undeniable wren-like trait, that of twitching, wagging, and thrashing his long tail about to help express his emotions. It swings like a pendulum as he rests on a branch, and thrashes about in a most ludicrous way as he is feeding on the ground upon the worms, insects, and fruit that constitute his diet.

Before the fatal multiplication of cats, and in unfrequented, sandy locations still, the thrasher builds her nest upon the ground, thus earning the name “ground thrush” that is often given her ; but with dearly paid-for wisdom she now most frequently selects a low shrub or tree to cradle the two broods that all too early in the summer effectually silence the father’s delightful song.