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New Jersey Endangered and Threatened Species Field Guide

Image of An adult brown thrasher.Zoom+ An adult brown thrasher. © Blaine Rothauser

Brown thrasher

Toxostoma rufum

Species Group: Bird

Conservation Status

State: Special Concern (Breeding)



The brown thrasher is slightly longer and slimmer than the American robin. It is approximately 11 ½ inches long and sexes look alike. It is bright rufous above and heavily striped (not spotted like thrushes) below. It has light-colored wing bars, a long tail, a curved bill, and yellow eyes. Thrashers are known for their ability to mimic the songs of other bird species.

Image of Range of the brown thrasher in New Jersey.Zoom+ Range of the brown thrasher in New Jersey.


The breeding range of the brown thrasher includes most of the eastern U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains and as far north as southern Canada. They are year-round residents throughout much of the southeastern U.S. as well as the Atlantic coast as far north as Cape Cod. Additional winter range extends southwestward into central Texas.

Brown thrasher habitat includes dense thickets and shrub areas within deciduous forest clearings and forest edge as well as thorn-scrub areas.


Brown thrashers feed on insects and other invertebrates as well as small fruits. They may also feed on some small amphibians and reptiles. They generally feed on or near the ground.


The breeding season for the brown thrasher in New Jersey is between mid-April to mid-August. Nests are built by both sexes and are located on the ground under a shrub or as high as about 13 feet in a tree, shrub, or vine. Between 3 to 6 eggs are laid and incubation by both sexes lasts 11-14 days. The young are tended to by both parents and leave the nest in 9-13 days.


The brown thrasher is listed in New Jersey as a Species of Special Concern (not yet endangered or threatened but possibly on its way). Population declines observed in the US Northeast are most likely due to habitat loss. Reforestation eliminates the early successional shrub habitat preferred by thrashers. Also, nest predation in some areas accounts for over a 50% rate of nest failure in some areas. Feral cats and subsidized predators may threaten this species’ nesting success since their nest locations are often highly vulnerable on the ground.

Text written by Michael J. Davenport in 2011.

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
       Class: Aves
          Order: Passeriformes
             Family: Mimidae
                Genus: Toxostoma
                   Species: T. rufum

Find Related Info: Migratory songbirds, Special concern

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