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
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.
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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.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Townsend's Solitaire

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 Townsend's Solitaire

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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