Illustration of wood thrush

Illustration by Thomas R. Schultz


Map: Wood thrush range


Formerly considered a member of Catharus, this species’ large size and calls ally it also with Turdus. Monotypic. Length 7.3" (18 cm).

Identification A chunky, well-marked brown thrush of eastern North America. Adult: orange-brown upperparts, much brighter on rear crown and nape. Obvious white eye ring barely broken by dark gray eye line. Distinctive black-and-white striped auriculars and spotting on throat forming streaks. Underparts white with large and distinct, oval black spots extending onto lower belly and flanks, the latter washed warm brown. Bill grayish pink with darker culmen. Juvenile: spotted whitish above, dark below; some older immatures distinguishable by flanks possibly less warm, and through fall by thin cinnamon tips to inner coverts forming very slight, partial wing bar. Flight: wide, pale wing stripe as in boreal Catharus, but wing base wider with pronounced secondary bulge.

Similar Species Catharus thrushes similar, but all smaller, less potbellied, less heavily spotted; most not as bright. Strong white eye ring not matched in Catharus, nor is auriculars pattern (though gray-cheeked has vaguely-streaked auriculars). Brown and long-billed thrashers also similar, but with much longer tail, bill; yellowish eyes.

Voice Call: a rolling popopopo and a rapid, staccato pit pit pit. Flight note: sharp, nasal jeeen. Song: beautiful, flutelike eee-o-lay, with last note accented and highest in pitch; this song usually introduced with quiet po notes, not audible at long distance, and ending with a buzzy or trilled whistle.

Status and Distribution Fairly common in East. Breeding: nests in deciduous forest. Migration: medium- to long-distance trans-Gulf migrant. Spring peaks Gulf Coast ±15 April; southern Great Lakes ±15 May. In fall, some move early (late August), but most still present near breeding grounds into September; Gulf Coast peak in first half of October. Winters from eastern Mexico east and south to Panama. Vagrant: rare to accidental migrant in West and north to Saskatchewan. Accidental in western Mexico, northern South America, Iceland, United Kingdom, and Azores.

Population Forest fragmentation and resultant cowbird parasitism negatively impacts populations in parts of breeding and wintering ranges.

—From the National Geographic book Complete Birds of North America, 2006

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