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Sage Thrasher

MARC number#LocationCountyArrival dateDeparture dateObserversReport
1965-021Parker River NWREssex10/26/6510/26/65ph. W. French*19
2005-491Parker River NWR–Lot 1Essex11/6/0511/6/05T. Spahr (ph), M. Durgin11
2010-041Salisbury Beach State Park, SalisburyEssex1/11/103/28/10B. Parker* (ph)15

Fig 1. Sage Thrasher at Salisbury State Beach Reservation.
(ph. Sandy Selesky, 27 Mar 2010)

Fig 2. Sage Thrasher at Parker River NWR, Lot 1.
(video grab, Tim Spahr, 6 Nov 2005)

WHERE TO LOOK IN MASSACHUSETTS: A denizen of flat, open areas, the Sage Thrasher is most often found near beaches and parking lots in the east. Any open grassy area near the ocean, spotted with stunted junipers, would be an excellent place to look. Good Harbor Beach parking lot, in Gloucester, and perhaps the High Head area of Truro represent good habitat. The Lot 1 parking area of Parker River NWR is just about ideal, and accounts for apparently 2/3 of all Massachusetts records for this species.

STATUS IN THE EAST: The Sage Thrasher often strays east of the Great Plains, with a remarkable concentration of at least a dozen sightings along Great Lakes migrant traps. While most of these vagrants are fall birds, a few sightings are from late May and early June timeframe. Further east it is only known from a handful of records along the Northeast Atlantic Coast, namely the three previously mentioned for Massachusetts, one in York, Maine in 2001, and a bird from Sandy Hook, New Jersey in 2009. (click here for eBird map)

IDENTIFICATION NOTES: Sage Thrasher identification is fairly straightforward with good views. The smallest thrasher, they are considerably smaller than a Northern Mockingbird and prominently streaked (not spotted) below in all but the most faded and worn plumage. Confusion with Brown Thrasher is possible with limited views, but Sage Thrasher will always be smaller, paler and grayer. The Brown Thrasher is conspicuously reddish brown on the back and wings, and has a proportionally longer tail. The Sage Thrasher’s prominent malar streaks and white corners on tail can recall Lark Sparrow, but the thin, slightly curved bill helps separate from all sparrow-like birds. Generally shows at least some buffy wash on the breast and sides among the streaks, and the pale iris is always present. Browner tones on back and wings, and small, thin wingbars help distinguish from juvenile Northern Mockingbird. Quite often perches in low shrubs or on rocks or boulders, and will frequently run from place-to-place instead of flying. Prefers extremely flat areas such as parking lots, and will settle down near Junipers if they are present.


Veit, R. R. and W. R. Petersen. 1993. Birds of Massachusetts.