Brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum).
J. Pepper (Saskatchewan Environment) SKCDC, 2001. Ecosystem image information system

Thrashers or mimids (family Mimidae) are solitary medium-sized, long-tailed songbirds that forage mainly on the ground, using their long sturdy bills to toss leaves and twigs in their search for food. They eat insects, fruits and grains. Most species run on the ground instead of flying in order to escape from predators. They nest in bulky stick cups in shrubs. Their flight is low and rapid. The name mimid or mimic thrush is based on the ability of many species to imitate sounds, particularly bird songs, in their environment.

There are thirty-four mimid species globally; eleven of those occur in North America. Four have been recorded in Saskatchewan. Brown thrashers (Toxostoma rufum) are reddish-brown overall, and buffy-coloured and heavily streaked underneath; they have long decurved bills, and are long-tailed. This is the most commonly encountered species. They breed in thick tangled riparian and aspen thickets in southern Saskatchewan, and in cleared areas of the southern boreal forest. The gray catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) is found in similar habitats as the brown thrasher, but is less frequent in shelterbelts. Gray catbirds are slaty-gray overall, with rufus undertail coverts, a black cap, and a long black tail. The other two species are more rarely encountered. The northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottus) is an irregular breeder in thickets in southern Saskatchewan. It has long legs, and conspicuous white patches on broad black wings. As its name suggests, the northern mockingbird imitates the sounds of dozens of birds, insects, other animals, and machinery. Sage thrashers (Oreoscoptes montanus) are erratic breeders limited to sagebrush flats in the extreme southwest. The sage thrasher is brownish gray overall; its whitish underparts have heavy brownish streaks; and is smaller and longer-winged (with crisp white wingbars) than other thrashers.

Robert Warnock

Further Reading

Alsop, Fred J., III. 2002. Birds of Canada. New York: Dorling Kindersley.