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Wood Thrush

Hylocichla mustelina ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: TURDIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Wood Thrush's loud, flute-clear ee-oh-lay song rings through the deciduous forests of the eastern U.S. in summer. This reclusive bird's cinnamon brown upperparts are good camouflage as it scrabbles for leaf-litter invertebrates deep in the forest, though it pops upright frequently to peer about, revealing a boldly spotted white breast. Though still numerous, its rapidly declining numbers may be due in part to cowbird nest parasitism at the edges of fragmenting habitat and to acid rain's depletion of its invertebrate prey.

Birds of North America Online
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Songs

The Wood Thrush's easily recognized, flute-like ee-oh-lay is actually only the middle phrase of a three-part song. It learns the phrase from other Wood Thrushes and sings several variants with 2 to 10 loud, clear notes. Combining those with 1–3 variants of the low, soft notes of the introductory phrase and 6–12 variants of the final higher-pitched complex trill, a male can easily sing over 50 distinct songs. Individuals can be identified by the repeating order they sing their variants of the middle phrase in song after song.

Calls

A staccato bup-bup-bup call signals mild distress, but rises in pitch and grows louder and more complex with increasing agitation until it becomes a distinctive, machine-gun-like pit-pit-pit alarm. This call accompanies territory or nest defense. The male sometimes chatters a pit-pit call during nest building, when it may be part of mate guarding.

Other Sounds

During aggressive displays, Wood Thrushes may snap the mandibles of the bill together.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

Wood Thrushes are forest-interior birds and are unlikely to come to feeders. However, they are still common and may be audible from your yard if you live near small woodlots.

Find This Bird

You'll likely hear the Wood Thrush before you see it. The male sings his haunting, flute-like ee-oh-lay song from the lower canopy or midstory of deciduous or mixed eastern forests. To see Wood Thrushes, look for them foraging quietly on the forest floor and digging through leaf litter.

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eBird Occurrence Maps, Wood Thrush

All About Birds Blog, ID Workshop: Use 4 Basic Keys Plus Migration Timing to Sort Out Your Thrushes, April 2014.