Photo: Eugene Beckes/Flickr Creative Commons

Priority Bird

Varied Thrush

Ixoreus naevius

The haunting songs of the Varied Thrush echo through the dense humid forests of the Pacific Northwest. Long minor-key whistles repeated after deliberate pauses, they seem like sounds without a source; only a careful searcher will find the bird itself. Although it looks superficially like a robin, the Varied Thrush is far more elusive, usually feeding on the ground among dense thickets. Typical of the far west, it sometimes surprises birders by straying all the way to the Atlantic Coast in winter.
Conservation status Could be vulnerable to loss of habitat through cutting of northwestern forests. Currently still common.
Family Thrushes
Habitat Thick, wet forest, conifers; in winter, woods, ravines, thickets. Breeds in coniferous forest of various types, but most common in dense, wet forest near the coast, in areas of fir, hemlock, and spruce with dense understory. In migration and winter favors coniferous woods but also occurs in undergrowth of other woods, especially near streams.
The haunting songs of the Varied Thrush echo through the dense humid forests of the Pacific Northwest. Long minor-key whistles repeated after deliberate pauses, they seem like sounds without a source; only a careful searcher will find the bird itself. Although it looks superficially like a robin, the Varied Thrush is far more elusive, usually feeding on the ground among dense thickets. Typical of the far west, it sometimes surprises birders by straying all the way to the Atlantic Coast in winter.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • adult female
  • immature male (1st yr)
  • immature (1st yr)
Feeding Behavior

Does much foraging on the ground, usually under dense cover but sometimes on open lawns; may use its bill to toss leaf-litter aside as it searches for insects. Feeds on berries either in trees and shrubs or after they fall to ground.


Eggs

3-4, sometimes 2-5. Pale blue, lightly dotted with brown. Incubation is by female, probably about 2 weeks. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Development of young and age at which they leave the nest are not well known. Probably 2 broods per year.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Development of young and age at which they leave the nest are not well known. Probably 2 broods per year.

Diet

Mostly insects and berries. Feeds on many insects, especially in summer, including beetles, ants, caterpillars, crickets, and many others; also eats many millipedes, sowbugs, snails, earthworms, spiders, other invertebrates. Berries and wild fruits make up majority of winter diet, also eats some seeds and acorns.


Nesting

Male sings in spring to defend territory, singing most frequently at dawn and dusk and after a rain. Nest: Usually placed in conifer, at base of branches against trunk, 5-15' above the ground. Sites vary: Occasionally much higher; especially in far north, may nest very low in deciduous thickets or on the ground. Nest (probably built by female) is a bulky open cup of twigs, moss, leaves, and bark fibers, lined with softer materials such as grass and rootlets.

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

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

Migration

Migrates relatively late in fall and early in spring. Numbers present in southern wintering areas quite variable from year to year. A few stray far to the east every year in fall and winter, some reaching New England.

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Migration

Migrates relatively late in fall and early in spring. Numbers present in southern wintering areas quite variable from year to year. A few stray far to the east every year in fall and winter, some reaching New England.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Song 2 or 3 buzzy whistles, each drawn out until it fades away, followed by a short silence. Call a low took.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.
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