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Veery Life History


ForestsVeeries breed in dense, damp, mostly deciduous woodlands, often near rivers, streams, and swampy areas. Breeding habitat includes forests of oak, maple, cherry, aspen, birch, alder, spruce and fir, among other trees and shrubs. Veeries gravitate toward disturbed forests, where dense understory provides protected nest sites. During spring and fall migration, they favor forest edges and second-growth woodlands. Back to top


InsectsVeeries eat mostly insects and other invertebrates during the breeding season; mostly fruit in late summer and fall. Prey include beetles, ants, wasps, caterpillars, grasshoppers, flies, bugs, and occasionally small frogs and salamanders. Fruits in the diet include juneberries, honeysuckle, strawberries, blackberries, wild cherries, sumac and dogwood fruits, blueberries, wild grapes, and elderberries. Back to top


Nest Placement

GroundVeeries usually build their nests on or near the ground, rarely higher than 5 feet up. The nest may rest in a clump of grass or other soft vegetation, on a mossy hummock, under brush and debris, or against a fallen trunk or branch. Some nests are found on high, dry hillsides.

Nest Description

The female constructs the cup-shaped nest over a period of 6–10 days while her mate guards the territory. She begins by creating a platform of dead leaves, to which she adds grapevine bark, weed stems, and wet, decomposed leaves. She lines the nest with rootlets and other fine fibers, continually shifting her position as she presses the material down to shape the nest evenly. The finished nest has an outside diameter of about 3–6 inches and an outside height of about 3.5–5.5 inches; inside, it’s about 2–3 inches in diameter and 1–2.5 inches deep.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:1-5 eggs
Number of Broods:1-2 broods
Egg Length:0.8-1.0 in (2.1-2.5 cm)
Egg Width:0.6-0.7 in (1.6-1.8 cm)
Incubation Period:10-14 days
Nestling Period:10-12 days
Egg Description:Greenish blue, rarely spotted with brown.
Condition at Hatching:Eyes closed, mostly naked with scanty gray down on head and back.
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Ground ForagerVeeries forage mostly on the ground—moving in a rapid series of long hops; sometimes flipping over leaf litter with their bills to catch creatures hiding underneath. They also search through understory foliage, hunt from rock or log perches, and occasionally catch insects on the wing. They are strong, fast fliers that make quick trips between protected perches when necessary. Males arrive first on breeding grounds and begin defending territory against other males. They’re initially aggressive toward females as well, but after 3–4 days this transitions to courtship flights, culminating in bonding and mating. Rival males fight by raising their bills and snapping them forward, quivering a foot, freezing for a couple of seconds in an erect pose, and flicking wings and tail. Back to top


Low Concern

Though still common in northern woods, Veeries have experienced slow, but significant declines over the last half-century. Overall, between 1966 and 2019, populations declined by approximately 0.6% per year for a cumulative decline of about 28%, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 11 million and rates them 12 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of relatively low conservation concern. Possible causes of their decline may include the extremely rapid transformation of their winter habitat in South American forests to agricultural land. Some of the bird’s northern woodland breeding habitats are also being destroyed or fragmented—a process that not only diminishes breeding opportunities but also increases nest parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds. Clearing of the dense understory that Veeries prefer—along with increased understory browsing by growing populations of white-tailed deer—may also be detrimental.

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Heckscher, Christopher M., Louis R. Bevier, Alan F. Poole, William Moskoff, Peter Pyle and Michael A. Patten. (2017). Veery (Catharus fuscescens), version 3.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. (2020). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2020. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2020.

Partners in Flight. (2020). Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2020.

Remsen, Jr., J. V. (2001). True winter range of the Veery (Catharus fuscescens): lessons for determining winter ranges of species that winter in the tropics. Auk 118:838-848.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2019). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2019. Version 2.07.2019. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

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