Living Bird Magazine
Sage ThrasherOreoscoptes montanus
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Mimidae
This smallest of the thrashers is a widespread denizen of the West’s vast sagebrush steppe. Sage Thrashers are furtive creatures that hunt for insects beneath a protective sagebrush canopy. In spring the males sing seemingly endless cascades of song from tall perches. Although they are reminiscent of mockingbirds, Sage Thrashers are browner, more spotted, and lack bold white wing flashes. Their sagebrush habitat is vulnerable to degradation via grazing, development, and invasive plants.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Look for Sage Thrashers in relatively undisturbed stretches of sagebrush. Your best bet is in spring, when the males are likely to spend much of the early morning out in the open, singing. Listen for a long, bubbling stream of notes and chatters, or a low call note that sounds like a Red-winged Blackbird.
- Cuicacoche Chato (Spanish)
- Moqueur des armoises (French)
- Cool Facts
- Sage Thrashers are incredible songsters—one singing male went on for over 22 minutes without taking a break.
- Sage Thrashers mimic other birds while they sing. This habit led to their early name of “mountain mockingbird,” which was an accurate description of its mimicry, if not its taxonomic relationships.
- Though they nest in open expanses of sagebrush where human eyes see little variation anywhere they look, Sage Thrashers are adept at finding choice nest sites. They pick the densest, tallest shrubs for their nests, and the overhead cover likely helps fend off aerial predators, such as Northern Harriers and Loggerhead Shrikes.
- In the high desert of the sagebrush steppe there can be extreme daily fluctuations in temperature. Sage Thrashers often orient their nest entrances eastward to capture solar heat in the cold mornings and to shade the eggs in the hot afternoons.
- Typical of thrashers, the Sage Thrasher is elusive when disturbed, frequently running on the ground rather than taking flight.