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Sage Thrasher, Laure Wilson Neish
Photo © Laure Wilson Neish

Photo: Laure Wilson Neish
Breeding evidence - Sage Thrasher
Breeding evidence

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Sage Thrasher
Oreoscoptes montanus

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Elevation range:
427 - 844 m
Conserv. status:
COSEWIC: Endangered
Global importance
of B.C. population:
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
3 0 2 3
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
BBS trends are not available for this species

Mean abundance by region

Bird Conservation Regions [plot]
NW Interior ForestBoreal Taiga PlainsGreat BasinNorthern RockiesN. Pacific Rainforest
Ecoprovinces [plot]
N. Boreal Mountains Taiga Plains Boreal Plains Georgia Depression Sub-Boreal Interior
S. Interior Mountains Central Interior Southern Interior S. Alaska Mountains Coast & Mountains

Mean abundance by habitat [plot]

Boreal Altai Fescue AlpineBoreal White and Black SpruceBunchgrassCoastal Douglas-fir
Coastal Mountain-heather AlpineCoastal Western HemlockEngelmann Spruce -- Subalpine FirInterior Cedar -- Hemlock
Interior Douglas-firInterior Mountain-heather AlpineMontane SpruceMountain Hemlock
Ponderosa PineSpruce -- Willow -- BirchSub-Boreal Pine -- SpruceSub-Boreal Spruce

Characteristics and Range The sage-coloured Sage Thrasher is seldom seen; birders seeking this rare Canadian songbird more often hear its long, melodious song drifting across the sage flats. Its breeding range matches the range of large sagebrush (Artemisia) species in the western Great Plains, Great Basin, Columbia Basin and other arid intermontane valleys (Reynolds et al. 1999). It is a short-distance migrant, wintering just south of the breeding range in the deserts of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat The Sage Thrasher has a very restricted range in British Columbia, and during the Atlas was reported only from the south Okanagan and Similkameen valleys. This is similar to the breeding range known when The Birds of British Columbia was published in 1997, although there were no breeding reports from the sagebrush benchlands of the Fraser River near Lillooet, where the species has bred at least once before.

The Canadian breeding population is thought to vary from about 6 to 36 birds; almost all of these are in British Columbia (COSEWIC 2010). There is no trend estimate for the Canadian population, but the Great Basin population just south of British Columbia has shown a moderate declining trend over the past 40 years (Sauer et al. 2014).

In British Columbia, the Sage Thrasher is found only in areas of extensive Big Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) in the Bunchgrass biogeoclimatic zone of the Southern Interior ecoprovince; Atlas reports came from locations between 480 and 750 m elevation.

Conservation and Recommendations The Sage Thrasher is listed as Endangered in Canada because of its very small population and threats to breeding habitat from development (COSEWIC 2010), and any sightings away from traditional British Columbian breeding sites should be reported to Conservation Data Centre and the Species at Risk office. Concerns regarding the much larger population in the United States have also been raised because of broad scale loss of sagebrush habitats there due to range management practices (Reynolds et al. 1999).

Richard J. Cannings

Recommended citation: Cannings, R.J. 2015. Sage Thrasher in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. [28 May 2024]

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