A Song for June 18

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The Sage Thrasher is the voice of the Great Basin cold desert, a place that is both dry and cold. Low shrubs are the dominant plants of this desert, and the Big Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) is chief among them. It is most likely the "purple sage" of Zane Grey's celebrated novel. Big Sagebrush is aromatic, but it's not true sage in the sense of the herbs of the genus Salvia. And partly for that reason, the erstwhile Sage Sparrow has been renamed Sagebrush Sparrow. This thrasher, too, is tied to the sagebrush, which often provides the highest available perch to sing from.

The Sage Thrasher's song is long and rambling. It is more compact than the songs of the larger Toxostoma thashers, and occupies less bandwidth in the soundscape and on the sonogram. It is perhaps less virtuosic, but more pleasant to listen to, than those productions. We have three with which to check those assertions. The one below was recorded at the same place as the one above, and may include the same bird, but definitely includes at least one other bird. The one below was singing 13 years earlier and hundreds of miles farther north and west. He's also pictured in the video. As you can see and hear, Sage Thrashers have to put up with a lot of wind.

Don Kroodsma covers the Sage Thrasher in detail in The Singing Life of Birds.

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