At a Glance
Seemingly not as shy as the other brown thrushes, not as bold as the Robin, the Wood Thrush seems intermediate between those two related groups. It sometimes nests in suburbs and city parks, and it is still common in many eastern woodlands, where its flutelike songs add music to summer mornings. However, numbers of Wood Thrushes have declined seriously in recent decades, focusing the attention of conservationists on the problems facing our migratory birds.
All bird guide text and rangemaps adapted from Lives of North American Birds by Kenn Kaufman© 1996, used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Perching Birds, Thrushes
Forests and Woodlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Range & Identification
Migration & Range Maps
Migrates mostly at night. Many migrate across Gulf of Mexico in spring and fall.
8" (20 cm). Round black spots on white chest. Brown above, shading to reddish brown on head; bold eye-ring. Stronger markings than other brown thrushes. Brown Thrasher striped (not spotted) has yellow eyes, longer tail.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Robin
Black, Brown, Red, White
Notched, Rounded, Square-tipped
Songs and Calls
A series of rich, melodious, flute-like phrases; call a sharp pit-pit-pit-pit.
Buzz, Chirp/Chip, Flute, Trill, Whistle
Mainly deciduous woodlands. Breeds in the understory of woodlands, mostly deciduous but sometimes mixed, in areas with tall trees. More numerous in damp forest and near streams than in drier woods; will nest in suburban areas where there are enough large trees. In migration, found in various kinds of woodland. Winters in understory of lowland tropical forest.
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Usually 3-4. Pale greenish blue, unmarked. Incubation is by female only, 13-14 days.
Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 12 days after hatching. 1-2 broods per year.
Forages mostly on ground, usually in forest undergrowth but occasionally on open lawns. Will use its bill to flip leaf-litter aside as it seeks insects. Feeds on berries up in shrubs and trees.
Mostly insects and berries. Feeds on many insects, especially in breeding season, including beetles, caterpillars, ants, crickets, moths, and many others; also spiders, earthworms, and snails. Berries and small fruits are eaten at all seasons. Young are fed mostly insects but also some berries.
Male arrives first on breeding grounds, establishes territory, and defends it by singing. Often reacts aggressively to other thrushes in territory, such as Robin or Veery. In courtship, male may chase female in fast circular flights among the trees. Nest: Placed in vertical fork of tree (usually deciduous) or saddled on horizontal branch, usually about 10-15' above the ground, sometimes lower, rarely as high as 50'. Nest (built by female) is rather like Robin's nest, an open cup of grass, leaves, moss, weeds, bark strips, mixed with mud; has lining of soft material such as rootlets. Often adds pieces of white paper or other trash to nest.
Numbers have declined seriously in recent decades. Cowbirds lay many eggs in their nests, so the thrushes often raise mainly cowbirds, with few young of their own. As forests are cut into smaller fragments, it apparently becomes easier for cowbirds to penetrate these small woodlots and find more of the thrush nests. The Wood Thrush is probably also losing wintering habitat in the tropics.
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Wood Thrush. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.
Climate Threats Facing the Wood 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.