Photo: Steven Kersting/Flickr Creative Commons

Gray-cheeked Thrush

Catharus minimus

All the brown-backed thrushes can be shy and hard to see, but the Gray-cheek is perhaps the most elusive. During migration it hides in dense woods, slipping away when a birder approaches. On its far northern nesting grounds it may be more easily seen, especially in late evening, when it sings from treetops.
Conservation status Southern breeding populations of Gray-cheeks may be declining.
Family Thrushes
Habitat Boreal forest, tundra scrub; in migration, other woodlands. Breeds in northern spruce forest, often rather open and stunted, and north of treeline in thickets of willow and alder on tundra. Winters in tropical forest.
All the brown-backed thrushes can be shy and hard to see, but the Gray-cheek is perhaps the most elusive. During migration it hides in dense woods, slipping away when a birder approaches. On its far northern nesting grounds it may be more easily seen, especially in late evening, when it sings from treetops.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • immature (1st year)
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly on the ground, hopping about under cover of dense thickets. Sometimes seen feeding on berries up in shrubs or trees.


Eggs

4, sometimes 3-5, perhaps rarely 6. Pale blue, with vague brown spots, sometimes almost unmarked. Incubation is by female, 12-14 days. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 11-13 days after hatching.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 11-13 days after hatching.

Diet

Mostly insects and berries. Diet through the year is not known in detail. In North America, feeds on a variety of insects, including beetles, caterpillars, ants, wasps, fly larvae, and many others; also spiders and some other invertebrates. Also eats many berries and wild fruits. Winter diet in tropics poorly known.


Nesting

Male arrives first on breeding grounds and establishes territory, defending it by singing. In courtship, male pursues female in swift flight among the trees. Nest: Often placed very low or even on the ground; usually less than 10' up, sometimes up to 24'. Ground nests are often among bases of willow or alder shoots, while higher nests may be against trunk of conifer at base of branches. Nest (built by female) is a well-made open cup of grass, moss, twigs, weeds, strips of bark, sometimes with some mud added; lined with fine grass and rootlets.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Migrates mostly at night. Birds from Alaska (and eastern Siberia) apparently migrate far east in fall before turning south. Many probably make a nonstop flight from northeastern North America to northern South America.

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Migration

Migrates mostly at night. Birds from Alaska (and eastern Siberia) apparently migrate far east in fall before turning south. Many probably make a nonstop flight from northeastern North America to northern South America.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Series of thin reedy notes inflected downward at the end.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Thrushes Perching Birds

Gray-cheeked Thrush

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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