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
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.
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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.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Gray-cheeked Thrush

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate threats facing the Gray-cheeked Thrush

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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