Bird GuideThrushesVaried Thrush

At a Glance

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.
Perching Birds, Thrushes
Low Concern
Arroyos and Canyons, Forests and Woodlands, High Mountains, Urban and Suburban Habitats
Alaska and The North, California, Eastern Canada, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Rapid Wingbeats

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

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.


9-10" (23-25 cm). Orange throat and eyebrow, dark chest band, extensive orange wing markings. Female is duller than male, with paler upperparts. Juvenile mottled on chest, but has same wing pattern as adults.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Robin
Black, Blue, Brown, Gray, Orange
Wing Shape
Tail Shape
Rounded, Square-tipped

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.
Call Pattern
Call Type
Buzz, Chirp/Chip, Trill, Whistle


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.



3-4, sometimes 2-5. Pale blue, lightly dotted with brown. Incubation is by female, probably about 2 weeks.


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

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.


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.


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.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Could be vulnerable to loss of habitat through cutting of northwestern forests. Currently still common.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Varied Thrush. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Varied 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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