Bendire's Thrasher

Toxostoma bendirei

  • Version: 2.0 — Published January 1, 1993
  • A. Sidney England and W. F. Laudenslayer Jr.

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Figure 1. Breeding and year-round range of Bendire's Thrasher.

In winter, northern breeders retreat south and overlap with residents. Boundaries shown here are substantiated by specimens and repeated observations.

Bendire's Thrasher, adult; Tucson, AZ

Bendire's Thrasher, adult; Tucson, AZ; photographer Brian E. Small

Bendire's Thrasher was the last thrasher described for mainland North America. Major Charles E. Bendire collected the first specimen in 1872 near Camp Lowell, now downtown Tucson, Arizona. Although Bendire recognized this as a new species (he had heard its song and found its nest), Robert Ridgway when presented with this first specimen did not. He believed it to be a female Curve-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostre), and Elliott Coues was not sure (Coues 1873b). Thus, beginning with the first specimen, our understanding of this species has been clouded by confusion with similar species, by its migratory wanderings, by its rather secretive behavior, and by the meager number of observers that work in its desert habitats. Much of our limited knowledge about this species is derived from anecdotal information on nesting, distribution, and food habits collected in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Bendire's Thrashers forage primarily on the ground, probing the soil for insects and occasionally plucking insects and fruit from vegetation. They generally inhabit sparse desert habitats in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, although within this range their distribution is spotty and, in some areas, still poorly understood. Unlike other southwestern Toxostoma thrashers, they leave the northern portion of their breeding range in winter, a season when wanderers sometimes appear at unexpected locations.

Recommended Citation

England, A. S. and W. F. Laudenslayer Jr. (1993). Bendire's Thrasher (Toxostoma bendirei), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.