Sage Thrashers Aplenty

A Sage Thrasher with its eye on a Paper WaspA Sage Thrasher with its eye on a Paper Wasp – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/2000, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

There are Sage Thrashers aplenty on Antelope Island State Park right now and they have been thrashing, dashing and singing their little hearts out the last three trips I have made out to the island. It is very hot and the Deer Flies are ripping into my skin but I’m not about to let them stop me from photographing the Sage Thrashers. I guess no one has told the Deer Flies that I am human and not a deer.

On June 24th while I was photographing the Sage Thrasher above a Paper Wasp flew in close to the thrasher and the thrasher kept a close eye on it, I thought the bird might try to snatch the wasp out of the air but it didn’t and the wasp flew off.

Alert Sage ThrasherAlert Sage Thrasher – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 500, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Sage Thrashers aren’t easy to get close to so I have been happy that they have been approachable but they are always alert whether it is because of humans being close, traffic or keeping an eye out for prey. This one was perched on a Rabbitbrush taking a look at its territory. I wondered if it had a nest nearby.

A pair of Sage Thrashers on a RabbitbrushA pair of Sage Thrashers on a Rabbitbrush – Nikon D300, f11, 1/500, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Yesterday I spotted a bird diving into the base of a Rabbitbrush and we stopped to see if it would come back up, I’m glad we stopped because when we did I noticed a Sage Thrasher chick run into the brush and before long the adult popped up on the top of the Rabbitbrush.  The adult bird did pop up and it had an insect in its bill, I do have images of that but I will post those later.

At one point in the distance I saw this pair of adult Sage Thrashers perched close to each other.

Back view of a Sage ThrasherBack view of a Sage Thrasher – Nikon D300, f8, 1/400, ISO 200, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

The pair also seemed fond of this perch which is a dead part of another Rabbitbrush and they spent time there looking around. I kept hoping that the chick I saw would fly up to be fed by its parents. No such luck yesterday but I have a feeling it won’t be long until we see them do just that.

Preening one tiny featherPreening one tiny feather – Nikon D300, f8, 1/500, ISO 250, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

One of the adults decided to preen while it was perched on these twigs, I do wish I would have had a bit more eye contact than I was able to capture in this frame but I like the pose anyway because of how the thrasher has just one feather in its bill.

Preening Sage ThrasherPreening Sage Thrasher – Nikon D300, f8, 1/500, ISO 250, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

The Sage Thrasher seemed to ignore the big lenses pointed at it and continued to preen and fluff. Ideally I wish that the two twigs sticking up behind the thrasher weren’t there but they were and I’m not keen on cloning things out.

Fluffed up Sage ThrasherFluffed up Sage Thrasher – Nikon D300, f8, 1/500, ISO 250, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

I enjoyed all the different poses this Sage Thrasher showed while it preened yesterday, it also might have felt good when it fluffed like this if it allowed some of the heat under them to dissipate. Me? I was swatting Deer Flies off of my exposed skin, nasty buggers. They made me miss some shots!

Sage Thrasher perchedSage Thrasher perched – Nikon D300, f8, 1/800, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

An interesting tidbit about Sage Thrashers: They recognize and remove the eggs of Brown Cowbirds who attempt to parasitize their nests so they raise their own chicks unlike other birds that don’t remove the eggs and end up raising the Brown Cowbird chicks instead of their own broods.

I hope the Sage Thrashers chicks start being visible too but in the meantime there are still Sage Thrashers aplenty on Antelope Island!

Life is good.



  1. Mia McPherson July 29, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    Thank you all for your comments on this Sage Thrasher post.

  2. Julie Brown July 5, 2013 at 6:44 am

    Very nice looks of the thrasher in this series, Mia. I especially like the first image with the two birds in their environment.

  3. Mark Elliott July 3, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    Beautiful shots, Mia, especially the one with the wasp. I hope he got him. We have Curved-billed Thrashers around here. The ones that come into my yard after grubs will get quite close to me. They also like the fruits of the prickly pear across the street. They look pretty funny with their bills and faces stained purple.

  4. Susan Stone July 2, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    I love knowing that Sage Thrashers will remove cowbird eggs. Cowbirds are the one bird I really dislike… Nice set of photos.

  5. eric c11 July 2, 2013 at 11:12 am

    wow, very nice this serie, the one with the insect is incredible, you did the picture at the rigth timing,
    thanks mia, have a nice day ☼

  6. M. Firpi July 2, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Mia, I told Ron when he posted these in his blog that we have the ‘Pearly-eyed Thrasher’ here in P.R.. It has been considered a superior colonizer (instead of just a competitor), and takes over tree cavities and nests. It is also found in the urban San Juan area now, I’ve yet to find out where they truly nest. I think the species in general is very cunning and aggressive with their nests, but in small islands this cunning ability overdevelops and they can easily adapt just about anywhere. Very nice profile you have created here with its feathers ruffled up and preening.

    • M. Firpi July 2, 2013 at 1:02 pm

      The shot with the bee is awesome!

  7. Utahbooklover July 1, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    I enjoyed the extra images of a bird I haven’t seen before — very nice. How cleaver that they recognize the cowbird eggs and remove them. You have my admiration Mia, enduring both the extreme heat and the deer flies too. I’m spending as little time outdoors as possible during this heat-wave!

  8. patty chadwick July 1, 2013 at 6:08 am

    Interesting info re: their recognizing and removing alien eggs…I didn’t realize any birds did that. I find the sage thrashers’ eyes compelling. AS for the flies, apparently you’re quite dear to them.

  9. Elephant's Child July 1, 2013 at 4:29 am

    How clever of them to recognise the ‘cuckoo’ in their nest. I have not heard of other birds able to do that. This is a wonderful series. I particularly liked the preening shots – and hope that you do get to see more of the chicks soon.

  10. Bob Bushell July 1, 2013 at 3:51 am

    Wow, I’ve never heard of the Sage Thrasher before, isn’t it beautiful. thanks Mia.

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