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Long-billed Thrasher Life History



In Texas, Long-billed Thrashers live in brushlands, thickets, hedges, and riparian woodlands, especially areas with native plants such as mesquite, blackbrush acacia, huisache, sugar hackberry, granjeno, netvein hackberry, la coma, Texas persimmon, agarito, brasil, and colima. In many areas of Texas this native habitat, known as Tamaulipan brushlands, has been removed for agriculture and other developments. Less than 5% of the original extent remains today. Long-billed Thrashers also occupy some developed habitats, such as suburbs, so long as there is plenty of dense vegetation and a rich layer of leaf litter.

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Long-billed Thrashers eat mostly insects, spiders, snails, and small fruit. They forage chiefly on the ground, in leaf litter, which they clear with broad, sideways strokes of the bill to reveal prey. They sometimes pick up larger objects such as sticks and hurl them to the side. They use the bill to excavate into the soil as well. Prey includes crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, flies, ants, moths, and stinkbugs. They probably consume small crustaceans and lizards on occasion as well. In fall and winter, they eat berries of granjeno, brasil, anacua, and several hackberry species.

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Nest Placement


Nests are typically set in dense cover in a thicket, hedge, or small tree.

Nest Description

Male and female construct a cup of thorny twigs, lining it with grasses, Spanish moss, rootlets, bark, and straw. Nests measure on average 7.7 inches across and 5.1 inches tall, with interior cup 4.1 inches across and 2.4 inches deep.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:2-5 eggs
Egg Description:

Pale greenish white, densely speckled with tiny brown markings.

Condition at Hatching:

Helpless, with scattered tufts of black down.

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Ground Forager

Long-billed Thrashers are year-round residents within their range, although some individuals maintain different territories in summer and winter. Long-billed Thrashers on wintering territories may clash with wintering Brown Thrashers but not with other thrasher species. The Long-billed Thrasher's courtship behavior is unstudied, but likely resembles the closely related Brown Thrasher's courtship. This includes displays in which the female assumes a crouched begging posture, raises the bill, calls softly, and quivers the wings. In some cases she presents nesting material to the male, which may also present nesting material. Both male and female select the nest site, build the nest, incubate the eggs, and feed the young.

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Low Concern

Long-billed Trasher populations in the U.S. increased by an estimated 6.1% annually between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 280,000 and rates the species a 12 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of moderate conservation concern. At least 95% of the native Tamaulipan brushland habitat of the Lower Rio Grande Valley in the United States has been lost to agriculture and other development, and clearing of this habitat continues. Because of grazing and fire suppression, mesquite and shrubs have invaded grassland habitats north of the Rio Grande Valley, potentially creating habitat for Long-billed Thrashers there.

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Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. (2020). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2020. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2020.

Partners in Flight (2017). Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2017). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2015. Version 2.07.2017. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

Tweit, Robert C. (1997). Long-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma longirostre), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

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