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Varied Thrush


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Varied Thrush’s simple, ringing song gives a voice to the quiet forests of the Pacific Northwest, with their towering conifers and wet understories of ferns, shrubs, and mosses. Catch a glimpse of this shy bird and you’ll see a handsome thrush with a slaty gray back and breast band set against burnt-orange breast and belly. Common in the Cascades, Northern Rockies, and Pacific Coast, Varied Thrushes forage for insects in summer and switch to berries and seeds in winter.

Keys to identification Help

Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Varied Thrushes are stocky songbirds with large, rounded heads, straight bills, and long legs. Usually seen standing horizontally on the ground or in a tree, they often look plump-bellied with a relatively short tail.

  • Color Pattern

    Male Varied Thrushes are dark blue-gray on the back and rich burnt-orange below with a sooty-black breastband and orange line over the eye. The wings are blackish with two orange bars and orange edging to the flight feathers. Females have the same patterns, but are paler gray-brown than males.

  • Behavior

    Varied Thrushes hop on the ground or low in shrubs and trees. They eat mainly insects and other arthropods in the summer and switch to nuts and fruit in fall and winter. On breeding territories, male Varied Thrushes sit on exposed perches to sing their haunting, trilling songs.

  • Habitat

    Varied Thrushes breed in dark understories of humid evergreen and mixed forests along the Pacific Coast. In the winter, many move into dense parks, gardens, and backyards. Varied Thrushes are rare but regular winter visitors to the Upper Midwest and Northeast.

Range Map Help

Varied Thrush Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Male

    Varied Thrush

    • Large thrush of Pacific Northwest forests
    • Bold black band across rusty-orange breast
    • Black head with orange stripe behind eye
    • Upperparts slaty gray, with orange in wings
    • © John Tubbs/PFW, Snoqualmie, Washington, January 2008
  • Female

    Varied Thrush

    • Robin-sized thrush of Pacific Northwest forests
    • Female is browner-gray above than male
    • Breast band is gray and muted
    • Orange color is dimmer but pattern similar to male
    • © Bill Corwin, Washougal, Washington, January 2009
  • Adult

    Varied Thrush

    • © Brian E. Small
  • Female

    Varied Thrush

    • Female is browner-gray above than male
    • Breast band is gray; underparts less rusty
    • Rarely but regularly seen east of typical range
    • © Lyn Winans/PFW, Minden, Ontario, Canada, December 2006

Similar Species

  • Male

    American Robin

    • Lives in more open habitats than Varied Thrush
    • Lacks black breast band
    • Head lacks orange eyestripe
    • No orange in wings
    • © birdmandea, Steilacoom, Washington, November 2008

Similar Species

American Robins have a simpler overall color pattern than Varied Thrushes. Robins have no orange on the wings or face, and they have an entirely orange breast without a dark breastband. Robins also prefer more open habitats than Varied Thrushes.

Backyard Tips

In the winter Varied Thrushes will eat seed from ground feeders. Planting native fruiting shrubs is also a good way to attract them to your yard. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.

Find This Bird

In the dim, dense forests where Varied Thrushes breed, your first clue that a bird is around will probably be its sweet, echoing, simple song. Look for foraging Varied Thrushes on the ground in small openings, but look for singing birds at higher perches in the understory and lower layers of the forest. In winter, Varied Thrushes show up south of their breeding range and often come to feeders or yards.



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