The Lake Hills City Birds

The Brown Thrasher: Georgia’s Avian Jewel

The Brown Thrasher: Georgia’s Avian Jewel

Brown thrasher sitting on a fence.

Welcome back, fellow bird enthusiasts! Today, we’re diving into the world of the brown thrasher, not only Georgia’s proud state bird but also a fascinating and feisty character in the avian kingdom. Are you joining us from Tennessee? If so, you’re in for a treat as we explore the intriguing rivalry between the brown thrasher and Tennessee’s state bird, the Northern Mockingbird.

Today, we’ll take a closer look at the brown thrasher, its distinctive characteristics, habitat, behavior, and storied skirmishes with the mockingbird next door. So, grab your binoculars, a cozy spot in your backyard, and let’s dive into the world of these spirited feathered neighbors.

Meet the Brown Thrasher

The brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) is a beautiful and charismatic songbird that takes the spotlight as Georgia’s official state bird. With its rich, earthy plumage, vibrant yellow eyes, and distinctive long bill, this bird is a true gem of the southeastern United States.

Physical Characteristics

One of the first things you’ll notice about the brown thrasher is its size, as it’s one of the largest songbirds in North America. Measuring about 11 to 12 inches in length and boasting a wingspan of up to 14 inches, it’s an imposing presence at your bird feeders.

The brown thrasher sports a warm, reddish-brown back, a cream-colored belly with bold dark streaks, and striking chestnut wings with conspicuous white wing bars. Its long and elegant tail flicks energetically while foraging, lending a charming touch to its appearance.

Habitat and Range

These thrashers are known for their preference for dense, shrubby areas such as woodland edges, thickets, and overgrown fields. They’re widely distributed across the southeastern United States, making their home from Florida all the way up to parts of New England.

Diet and Feeding Habits

Regarding dining habits, the brown thrasher is an omnivore with a diverse palate. They enjoy a diet that includes insects, spiders, fruits, and even the occasional small vertebrate. Their long, curved bills are ideally suited for probing the ground and flipping leaves to uncover tasty morsels.

Vocal Prowess

Its melodic and extensive song repertoire sets the brown thrasher apart. This bird is known to mimic the sounds of other birds and animals, incorporating various notes and phrases into its song. If you ever hear a medley of tunes in your backyard, it might just be a brown thrasher putting on a performance.

The Brown Thrasher vs. The Tennessee Mockingbird

Let’s delve into the fascinating feud between the brown thrasher and the Northern Mockingbird, Tennessee’s state bird. These two avian neighbors share more than just proximity; they often engage in territorial disputes that have intrigued bird enthusiasts for generations.

Brown Thrasher & Northern Mockingbird.

Territorial Battles

Both the brown thrasher and the Northern Mockingbird are fiercely territorial. They are known for their assertive behaviors when defending their territories, which frequently overlap in the southeastern United States.

When these two neighbors share a patch of prime territory, it’s common to witness spirited confrontations. These avian adversaries use various tactics to assert dominance, including singing loudly, displaying their plumage, and even engaging in aerial chases.

Vocal Showdowns

One of the most striking aspects of this rivalry is the vocal competition between the brown thrasher and the mockingbird. While the brown thrasher is a skilled mimic with a diverse song repertoire, the Northern Mockingbird is unparalleled in its ability to imitate the sounds of other birds, animals, and even mechanical noises.

During territorial disputes, the mockingbird often engages in a vocal showdown, showcasing its impressive mimicry skills by mimicking the songs and calls of other birds. The brown thrasher, in response, may intensify its own singing, creating a cacophonous symphony that can be both mesmerizing and bewildering.

Creating a Bird-Friendly Backyard

Now that we’ve explored the remarkable brown thrasher and its intriguing interactions with the Northern Mockingbird let’s discuss some ways to make your backyard a welcoming haven for these feathered neighbors.

Plant Native Shrubs and Trees

One of the best ways to attract brown thrashers and other native birds to your backyard is by planting native shrubs and trees. These plants provide food and shelter, creating an ideal songbird habitat.

Consider planting species like elderberry, holly, and dogwood, which produce berries that brown thrashers find irresistible. The dense foliage of native shrubs and trees also provides nesting sites and protection from predators.

Offer a Varied Diet

Provide a diverse menu to entice brown thrashers to visit your backyard regularly. Set out dishes of mealworms, fruits, and suet in addition to birdseed. These offerings will cater to the thrasher’s appetite and keep them returning for more.

Provide Fresh Water

A clean and reliable water source, including the brown thrasher, is essential for all birds. Consider installing a bird bath or a shallow dish of water where they can drink and bathe. Be sure to change the water regularly to keep it fresh and inviting.

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Limit Pesticide Use

Pesticides and herbicides can harm the insects that brown thrashers rely on for food. To create a bird-friendly environment, reduce harmful chemicals in your yard. Instead, opt for natural and organic gardening practices that promote a healthy ecosystem.

Practice Patience and Observation

Finally, remember that bird-watching is all about patience and observation. Keep your field guide and binoculars handy, and spend time quietly observing the avian activity in your yard. The more you watch, the more you’ll learn about the behaviors and interactions of your feathered friends.


The brown thrasher, with its distinctive appearance, captivating song, and spirited rivalry with the Northern Mockingbird, is a true gem of Georgia and the southeastern United States. Backyard bird enthusiasts in Tennessee have a front-row seat to the drama between these feisty neighbors.

By creating a bird-friendly environment in your backyard, you can attract brown thrashers and contribute to the conservation of native bird species. So, whether you’re listening to the melodic songs of a brown thrasher or admiring its tenacity in territorial disputes, remember that these feathered neighbors are an integral part of the rich tapestry of nature right outside your window.

The Lake Hills City Birds

Mourning Doves: Graceful Visitors to Your Backyard

Mourning Doves: Graceful Visitors to Your Backyard

If you’ve ever spent a tranquil morning sipping coffee in your backyard, chances are the gentle cooing of Mourning Doves has serenaded you. These elegant birds are expected guests in backyards across North America, and today, we’re here to introduce you to their world.

The Elegance of Mourning Doves

Mourning Doves are renowned for their understated beauty. Their soft gray feathers, slender tails, and striking ringed eyes give them a unique charm. Their wings emit a soothing sound when they take flight, adding to their elegance. It’s no wonder that they are considered the symbol of peace and grace among birds.

The Musical Duo: Mourning Dove Calls

One of the most captivating aspects of these doves is their melodious cooing. Their call can be confused with an owl’s to those listening with an untrained ear. If you’ve ever wondered who’s responsible for those mournful yet soothing sounds in your backyard, it’s likely a pair of Mourning Doves. They use their calls for communication, especially during courtship.

Intriguingly, each dove has a slightly different coo, and these coos can range from a gentle “cooOOoo-woo-woo” to a more rhythmic “coo-coo, coo-coo.” These calls can be enchanting, adding a harmonious touch to your outdoor space.

Mourning Dove Behavior

Mourning Doves have fascinating behaviors that make them a joy to observe. They are ground feeders, primarily dining on seeds and grains. Scatter some birdseed in your garden, and you’ll likely find them pecking away gracefully.
When it comes to nesting, Mourning Doves are models of loyalty. They often mate for life and share the responsibility of raising their young. Their simple nests can be found in trees, ledges, or even on your porch if you’re fortunate. It’s truly heartwarming to witness their devotion.

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Mourning Doves in Your Garden

If you want to attract these lovely birds to your backyard, it’s surprisingly easy. Consider setting up a bird feeder stocked with seeds. They’ll also appreciate a birdbath for a quick dip. Providing a peaceful and safe environment will make your backyard an inviting haven for Mourning Doves. 

Mourning Dove Conservation

While Mourning Doves are common, it’s essential to be mindful of their conservation. Their populations are stable, but responsible bird-watching and conservation efforts are still crucial. By providing a safe and welcoming space for them, you’re contributing to their well-being.


In your backyard, these graceful creatures bring an air of tranquility and beauty. Mourning Doves are the perfect companions for your morning coffee, adding their gentle coos to your moments of serenity. As you watch them feed and care for their young, you become a part of their world, and they are a part of yours.

So, next time you hear their mournful coos, take a moment to appreciate the elegance and charm of Mourning Doves. Share your dove-watching experiences with fellow backyard bird enthusiasts and join the community of those who find joy in these beautiful visitors.

The Lake Hills City Birds

Yellow-rumped Warbler

This is my first time seeing this bird in my backyard. There was a large flock of them in the trees. They move quickly and are difficult to video and photo. This bird is also called a Myrtle Warbler, Butterbutt, or Yump. Females are more dull, with brown streaking on the front and back. They still have a yellow rump.

In the winter, Yellow-rumped Warblers find open areas with fruiting shrubs and scattered trees. Our backyard borders a large city park with plenty of open areas, there is a stream when it rains, and plenty of old trees.

This bird is 4.5 – 6 inches with a wingspan of 7-9 inches. They weigh between 12 – 13g and have a life span of approximately 6 years. They eat fruit, sunflower seeds, mealworms, peanuts, suet, and sugar water. It was a pleasure getting to see them as they visited my backyard.

The Lake Hills City Birds

Tennessee Sandhill Cranes

Between mid-October and February sandhill cranes migrate to Tennessee for the winter. According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, “Tennessee has wintered an average of over 29,000 cranes over the last five years. There are an estimated minimum 89,000 Sandhill Cranes in the eastern population that passes through and winters in Tennessee. There are two primary areas in Tennessee for migrating cranes.” The Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Birchwood, TN and the Hop-in Refuge in Western Tennessee. Both of these locations have thousands of cranes that can be seen. The cranes have been known to stop off in fields and backyards of Tennessee residents as they travel to their wintering location.

These birds are magnificent. They are between 4 – 5 feet tall, have a wingspan of 5 – 6 feet and weigh between 10- 14 lbs. My grandma Tommie loved these huge birds. We would visit the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge yearly when she was alive. We usually visited in November and early December though. This was my first time visiting in late December. This was also my first time visiting since she passed away last year.

The birds put on quite a show for me. There were thousands of birds here. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more than 29,000. I have never seen this many at one time. They were very loud. I probably should have worn ear plugs it was that loud. It was an amazing site to see.

January 14- 15th will be the 32nd annual Sandhill Crane Festival. For details about the festival, you can visit this site .

I will not be going to the festival. There are too many illnesses going around and I have some immune system issues. I do not need to be around large crowds. When we visited the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge I was the only person out there. I am probably the only one crazy enough to stand out there in 17 degree temperatures to get photos of birds.

If you live in the area and have never checked it out, I strongly suggest you do. I’ve been several times in November and have seen a few hundred cranes. I do think late December and January is the time to visit if you want to see thousands of cranes. There are also a lot of other birds to photo there too. I will be posting a video on Monday, January 2nd for all to see. I will link it here at that time.