Sage Thrasher
(Oreoscoptes montanus)


Picture of bird
© Dick Cannings
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The Sage Thrasher is a very rare bird in Canada, restricted to a small area in southern British Columbia with scattered sightings in southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan. Annual populations are likely between 7 and 36 breeding birds (COSEWIC 2010j). Because of its rarity, it cannot be monitored with broad-scale surveys. Occasional direct counts of breeding birds indicate a fluctuating but essentially unchanging population in Canada. In 1992, the Sage Thrasher was assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada as Endangered, and reassessed as such in 2000 and 2010, because of its small population size and the continuing threat of habitat loss (COSEWIC 2010j). It is listed under the Species at Risk Act. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
COSEWIC (Canada)Endangered2010 
SARA (Canada)Endangered2003 
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Critically imperiled2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLittle ChangeLowBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada< 50 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population
CanadaVery Low

Conservation and management

The Sage Thrasher is restricted to large tracts of sagebrush habitat during the breeding season (Reynolds et al. 1999). Fire or other management actions that eliminate this shrub cover can eliminate Sage Thrasher populations (Reynolds et al. 1999). Residential and agricultural developments have resulted in some habitat loss in British Columbia (Reynolds et al. 1999, COSEWIC 2010j). Other possible threats include: livestock grazing, road work (construction and maintenance), and oil and gas exploration in the prairies (Environment Canada 2014). The Canadian population is closely linked to the population in Washington State, where at least half of the suitable habitat has been lost, mostly to agriculture (Reynolds et al. 1999). For information on the legal status of this species under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and to view available recovery documents, see the SARA Registry.


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Great BasinGreat Basin, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Conservation & Stewardship
Prairie PotholesPrairie Potholes, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Other