And I think they are a great choice. Not because they’re colorful. Or, cute. Or, somehow exotic. I think the school children of Georgia, in 1928, followed many years later in 1970 by the legislature, made the right choice because Brown Thrashers are tough, good looking in a rough and ready kind of way, and unequaled songsters. The Waylon Jennings & Bonnie Raitt of birds.
I also think they are a great choice because they are facing and struggling to stand-up to the most common threats to our songbirds. They are a poster-bird for the lost 3 billion. And as well, they are equally a poster-bird for the benefits from simple actions that can be taken in our own backyards. Starting now.
Good looking and tough. Their foxy brown-colored back is reminiscent of dried red clay stuck on my truck after birding backroads. Their breasts are creamy and highlighted with contrasting dark brown streaks. An original form of woods camo worn by avid outdoors women and men. The eyes can stare anyone of down. A look that would make any Mema proud. Especially, if something, or we, are encroaching on their young. They are devoted parents. Their beak is formidable. They will take on any intruder, including you. They can nail you. Believe me.
Brown Thrashers make their living in deep in shrubbery and thickets and the resulting leaf litter. Strong feet, an athletic two foot kick, and a strong down-curved bill to fling the kicked leaves into the air uncovers lots of small insects, worms, spiders and other tasty invertebrates. To help with adaptability, fruit is also on the menu.
They are true songsters rivaling, if not exceeding, their famous Northern Mockingbird cousins. Their repertoire is estimated to be +1100 song styles. This is the best endorsement for being the state bird for the state that has turned out the likes of Ray Charles, James Brown, Ottis Redding, The Allman Brothers, Little Richard, R.E.M. Gladys Knight, Usher, Ludacris, ….
But, it’s not all good news. Their population has declined 41% since 2015. Loss of habitat being a prime reason. Pesticide and herbicide contamination of the remaining habitat another. These are two concerns that home owners and greenspace managers can work to rectify easily, most importantly, quickly. Planting natives, especially fruit bearing shrubs and small trees, leaving leaf litter, making brush piles in backyard corners, placing suet feeders near the shrubs, keeping a clean and fresh on or near the ground birdbath all help welcome Brown Thrashers to your yard eco-system. A handsome maestro, or country star, could take a prominent role in your spring chorus.