This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the sage thrasher.
Sage thrashers belong to the family of birds called mimids, known for their elaborate songs and ability to mimic other sounds within their environment. This group of birds, found only in North and South America, includes mockingbirds, catbirds and thrashers.
Adult sage thrashers, the smallest of the thrasher species, are gray-brown above and heavily streaked below and have relatively long legs and tails. Their eyes are yellow and they have a white chin bordered by thin dark streaks. They often run from cover to cover rather than fly.
These birds are short-distance migrants, breeding in sagebrush habitat across the western United States and retreating for the winter to the southern parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and west Texas, and to northern Mexico. During breeding season, they are sagebrush obligate, but occupy a wider grassland and shrubby habitat range in migration and winter.
Sage thrashers hide their ground nests in tall, dense sagebrush which provides cover from the hot summer sun and protection from predation by overhead hawks. Nest entrances face east for warmth from the morning sun. Adults are secretive around the nest, flying in only to within 30 feet of the nest and sneaking the rest of the way on foot.
According to the National Audubon Society, over 350 wildlife species depend on a healthy sagebrush ecosystem for survival. Cooperative efforts involving federal agencies, states, private landowners, conservation organizations and industry led to the development of plans to protect this important habitat. Recent government proposals threaten to weaken the effectiveness of these plans. For more information on the sagebrush ecosystem, visit rockies.audubon.org.
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