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Townsend's Solitaire

Myadestes townsendi ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: TURDIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Townsend’s Solitaire is an elegant, wide-eyed songbird of western-mountain forests. Their drab gray plumage gets a lift from subtly beautiful buffy wing patches and a white eyering. Though they're thrushes, they perch upright atop trees and shrubs to advertise their territories all year long, and can easily be mistaken for flycatchers. Their sweet jumbling song gives them away and enlivens their evergreen forest and juniper woodland homes. In winter they switch from eating primarily insects to eating fruit, particularly juniper berries.

Songs

The song of the Townsend’s Solitaire is a complex finchlike or thrasherlike song consisting of short, rich warbles that change abruptly in pitch. Each phrase is strung together in bouts lasting about a minute. Males and females sing throughout the year, but the female’s song is softer.

Calls

  • Song, call
     
  • Courtesy of Macaulay Library
    © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Townsend’s Solitaires have 4 types of calls. The most commonly heard is a high-pitched clear ringing note that they give about 30 times per minute. They give this tew call year-round to defend their territories. The other 3 types of calls include a harsh note used when defending their territories against other species; a single, low-pitched note given during food exchanges; and a harsh raspy alarm call given by breeding solitaires.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

If you live in an area of the West where juniper trees grow, try adding a couple to your yard to entice a Townsend Solitaire to visit during the winter. Learn more about how to create bird-friendly backyards at Habitat Network.

Find This Bird

Townsend’s Solitaires are fairly inconspicuous birds that often sit motionless, but their sweet jumbling song and tendency to sing throughout the year, is often the best way to track them down. During the breeding season you might also stumble across a nesting pair by walking along an old Forest Service road with steeply cut banks. Be on the lookout for a gray bird that quickly darts out of the bank as you walk by (and if you do flush a bird, don't stick around too long and allow the bird to return to its nest). Perhaps the easiest time to see them is during winter, when these birds are common around junipers loaded with berries. Once you find a patch listen for their persistent ringing call and start scanning the tree tops.

Get Involved

Join the Great Backyard Bird Count and tell us how many species you see in your yard. Find out more at Great Backyard Bird Count.

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