A brown thrasher turned up in our yard this week, the first I've seen this spring. Breeding across southern Canada and the U.S., east of the Rockies, this bird summers in the southeastern and south-central States, including southern Missouri; on occasion, I have seen them in central Missouri during mild winters.
Jay sized, the brown thrasher is identified by his red-brown plumage, yellow eye, long tail and heavily streaked breast; his long, thin bill is slightly curved, but not to the degree of his southwestern cousins. Usually seen alone or in pairs, this bird prefers thickets and wood margins where he searches for insects in the leaf litter and sometimes feeds on berries. A bulky nest of twigs and plant debris is generally built in shrubs or directly on the ground.
Thrashers are in the same family as catbirds and mockingbirds and their song is similar, a varied repetition of short "phrases;" in the brown thrasher's case, each phrase is repeated twice. It is this tune, delivered from a conspicuous perch, that often draws our attention to an otherwise retiring summer resident.