- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Mimidae
A long-tailed, lanky songbird with a deeply curved bill, the California Thrasher is a key species of California chaparral. This relative of mockingbirds is an exuberant songster, and both males and females sing from the tops of shrubs, sometimes duetting. They forage on the ground, using their strong legs and long tail for leverage as they sweep the bill through leaf litter to uncover insects and other prey. This species is on the Yellow Watch List for its restricted range.More ID Info
Find This Bird
California Thrashers can be common but hard to see in their dense chaparral habitat. Early morning is a good time to search. Listen for the long song of mostly doubled phrases—singing begins with the onset of the rainy season, often in November, and lasts well into summer. Foraging birds often run off, with tail raised, when they see an intruder. But with some patience and stealth, you should be able to get a satisfying view of this entertaining bird.
- Cuitlacoche californiano (Spanish)
- Moqueur de Californie (French)
- Cool Facts
- The California Thrasher is the largest of the thrashers.
- Like its relative the Northern Mockingbird, the California Thrasher incorporates imitations of other birds’ songs into its own song, especially birds that are common in chaparral. These include the California Quail, Wrentit, California Scrub-Jay, Bewick’s Wren, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Spotted Towhee, and Lesser Goldfinch.
- The California Thrasher was described in the eighteenth century, much earlier than many of the birds of western North America. French navigator Jean-François de Galaup collected the first specimen in 1786 and named the bird “promerops de la Californie septentrionale.”
- The California Thrasher bears a striking resemblance to many species of birds that use similar habitats around the world, such as the scimitar-babblers of Asia and the earthcreepers of South America. These species all forage on the ground for insects using long, curved bills, yet none of the groups are closely related to each other. This phenomenon, in which species evolve similar traits in response to similar conditions, is called “convergent evolution.”
- Most California Thrashers live their entire lives in chaparral habitat, a plant community that has evolved with regular, intense fires during the dry months. Studies indicate that they reach their peak population densities in chaparral about 20 years after a burn.
- The oldest recorded California Thrasher was at least 9 years, 2 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in California in 2013. It had been banded in the same state in 2005.