Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)
Length: 7.75-8 in
Wing span: 13-14 in
Weight: 48 g
The song is rich, flute-like and varied. Often begins with a low, soft, 'po,po,po' notes, then rises through a short, gurgling phrase, and ends with rich buzzy or trilled whistle. Song described as 'ee-o-lay'. A couple of calls given by a Wood Thrush include bup calls and pit calls; 'bup' call is soft, gentle, low; 'pit' call is explosive, staccato.
(Recordings from xeno-canto.org. Spectrographs generated in Audacity)
Adult: Sexes are similar. The Wood Thrush is a medium-sized bird with rust-brown upper parts and white underparts with heavy dark brown spots. A bold white eye-ring is present. Cheek is streaked with gray. Black upper mandible and cream-to-pink lower mandible. It has a short tail, straight bill, large head, long legs and upright posture. Smaller than a robin and plumper than other brown thrushes.
Immature: Juvenile has pale streaks on upper parts.
In flight: Swift, direct flight on rapidly beating wings.
The Wood Thrush is related to the American Robin and the other thrushes in the Catharus genus.
The Wood Thrush breeds in the understory of mature deciduous forests with tall trees. They are more numerous in damp forest and near streams than in drier woods. In migration they can be found in various woodland habitats. They winter in the understory of lowland tropical forests.
Foods & Foraging
Feed mostly on insects and berries. Insects may include: beetles, caterpillars, ants, crickets, and moths. Will also consume spiders, earthworms and snails. Berries and small fruits eaten in all seasons.
Forage on the ground primarily by using bill to flip leaf litter aside in seeking insects. Feeds on berries up in shrubs and trees.
Click here to see how the range of the Wood Thrush could be reshaped due to climate change.
The Wood Thrush breeds from Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia south to Florida and the Gulf Coast. It winters in the tropics from the Yucatan Peninsula and south into Central America, mostly in the lowlands along the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts.
Birds arrive in our area toward the end of March and those that stay to breed depart again by August. Migrants continue to pass through well into October.
Arrival & Departure
The Wood Thrush has a widespread breeding distribution across the eastern U.S. and southern Canada, but it has experienced a population decline of 50% since 1966. During the non breeding season it is restricted to a much smaller area in southern Mexico and Central America. It is on the Partners-In-Flight Watch List and is on the Audubon Priority Bird List, as well as listed as threatened in Canada.
Wood Thrush declines are linked to habitat loss and fragmentation in both the breeding and wintering areas. As forests have become more fragmented, then the rates of Brown-headed Cowbird parasitism have increased. Other factors such as declining forest health due to acid rain, deer over-browsing, and poor forest management have also been documented in the decline of the Wood Thrush. Additionally, the loss of primary forests in the wintering area are forcing birds to move into secondary habitats that may have resulted in higher winter mortality and lower fitness, thereby impacting migration.
Despite a declining Wood Thrush population overall, the IUCN currently has this species listed as Least Concern (LC), likely due to the fact that the global population stands at 14 million individuals.
Wood Thrush: Least Concern
Least Concern category includes birds that are not at risk of being threatened or endangered at this time.