Photo: Andrew Reding/Flickr Creative Commons

Townsend's Solitaire

Myadestes townsendi

Solitaires are slim, long-tailed thrushes that perch upright in trees. As the name suggests, they are usually seen alone. Feeding mostly on berries in winter, each bird maintains its solitary status by defending a winter territory, staking out a supply of berries in a juniper grove or similar spot. These wintering birds often give a soft bell-like callnote; in summer (and sometimes in winter as well) they give voice to a complex song of clear musical warblings.
Conservation status Seldom parasitized by cowbirds, and faces no other obvious threats. Current numbers seem stable.
Family Thrushes
Habitat Conifer forests in mountains, rocky cliffs; in winter, chaparral, pinyon-juniper, open woods, wooded streams. Breeds mostly in open conifer forest in mountains, where exposed rocky slopes or dirt banks provide nesting sites; in far north, may be in burned areas or open scrub habitat near such banks. In winter, inhabits semi-open woods and brush, especially around junipers.
Solitaires are slim, long-tailed thrushes that perch upright in trees. As the name suggests, they are usually seen alone. Feeding mostly on berries in winter, each bird maintains its solitary status by defending a winter territory, staking out a supply of berries in a juniper grove or similar spot. These wintering birds often give a soft bell-like callnote; in summer (and sometimes in winter as well) they give voice to a complex song of clear musical warblings.
Photo Gallery
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Feeding Behavior

Does much foraging by watching from a perch, then flying out to catch insects in mid-air or fluttering down to catch them on the ground. Also may hover momentarily while plucking insects or berries among foliage.


Eggs

4, sometimes 3-5, rarely 6. Whitish to pale blue, blotched with pale gray, overlaid with darker brown spots. Details of incubation not well known; incubation period about 11 days. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young probably leave the nest about 2 weeks after hatching.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Young probably leave the nest about 2 weeks after hatching.

Diet

Mostly insects and berries. Feeds on many insects, especially in summer, including caterpillars, beetles, ants, true bugs, and others, also spiders and other invertebrates. In winter, majority of diet may be berries and small fruits, including those of juniper, mistletoe, hackberry, and others.


Nesting

Male defends territory by singing, often from a high perch; sometimes sings in flight. Nest: Usually on ground in shallow depression in dirt bank or road cut, in crevice in cliff, under a log or stump, or among upturned roots, placed in a protected spot with some overhanging shelter. Sometimes in hollow in dead snag a few feet above ground. Nest is a bulky and loosely made open cup of twigs, grass, pine needles, bark strips, lined with finer grass.

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

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

Migration

Migrates relatively late in fall and early in spring, although odd individuals may be seen out of season. Winter range varies from year to year depending on berry supply. Small numbers winter well east of breeding range on Great Plains.

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Migration

Migrates relatively late in fall and early in spring, although odd individuals may be seen out of season. Winter range varies from year to year depending on berry supply. Small numbers winter well east of breeding range on Great Plains.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Song made up of loud, melodious, fluty rising and falling phrases. Call is a squeaky eeek.
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

Townsend's Solitaire

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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