Sage Thrasher, Oreoscoptes montanus, mountain mockingbird
When the day is done, or just beginning, and those diesel engines are switched off, pause for a moment and listen. Do you hear anything? If you are adjacent or within the sagebrush shrub-steppe, you may be hearing the Sage Thrasher, nicknamed “mountain mockingbirds” for their mimicry of other birds. They are distinguishable by their slightly downward curved beak, long, rounded tail, and speckled belly. Sage Thrashers nest under the tallest, densest sagebrush – a familiar occurrence in Douglas County. Their nest entrances are often oriented eastward to capture solar heat in the cool mornings and to shade the eggs in hot afternoons. Sage Thrashers primarily feed on terrestrial insects, such as ants, grasshoppers, and ground beetles. Developing an Integrated Pest Management plan, reducing herbicide use, and seeding Organically-certified crops will help support Sage Thrasher populations along with many other insect-dependent birds.
Sage Thrashers remain relatively common; however, their melodies are heard less frequently due to habitat loss and fragmentation. How can you help? Help conserve them by providing healthy, continuous sagebrush shrub-steppe habitat, for example, eradicating cheatgrass and crested wheatgrass. Foster Creek CD has opportunities and funding to assess and improve rangeland habitat. If you are interested in learning more about conservation stewardship or enhancing degraded habitat, contact us today, (509) 888 – 6372.
Source: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
You are most likely to hear a Sage Thrasher sing at dawn during breeding season. Check out the following site with song recordings from throughout their range: Listen here to their melodious song! There is even a recording nearby our area on Umtanum Road in Washington.
Sage Thrasher eggs in Douglas County 2017