Living Bird Magazine
Wood ThrushHylocichla mustelina
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Turdidae
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.More ID Info
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.
- Zorzal Moteado (Spanish)
- Grive des bois (French)
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.
- Cool Facts
- A songbird like the Wood Thrush requires 10 to 15 times as much calcium to lay a clutch of eggs as a similar size mammal needs to nurture its young. That makes calcium-rich food supplements like snail shells crucial to successful breeding. These are rare in soils subject to acid rain, which may help explain patterns of population decline in the Wood Thrush.
- Wood Thrushes are vulnerable to nest parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds, which lay their eggs in other birds’ nests. Some species refuse to raise these eggs, but Wood Thrushes accept them as their own. In some Midwest forest edge habitats, virtually every Wood Thrush nest contains at least one cowbird egg.
- The Wood Thrush is a consummate songster and it can sing “internal duets” with itself. In the final trilling phrase of its three-part song, it sings pairs of notes simultaneously, one in each branch of its y-shaped syrinx, or voicebox. The two parts harmonize with each other to produce a haunting, ventriloquial sound.
- In many songbird species, males square off by "song matching": they answer a neighbor's song with the same song, perhaps seeing which male can perform it best. Wood Thrush males are different. They almost always answer a rival's song with a different one.
- The male Wood Thrush does more feeding of the chicks than the female, freeing her up to start a second brood. After that next brood fledges, the pair divides them up and feeds them at separate sites in the territory.
- Though pairs raise broods together, fooling around (or “extra-pair copulation”) is common. At some sites, as many as 40 percent of a female’s young are not fathered by its mate.
- The Wood Thrush's scientific name Hylocichla mustelina translates roughly as "weasel-colored woodland thrush."
- The oldest known Wood Thrush was a male and at least 10 years, 2 months old when he was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Connecticut in 2010. He had been banded in the same state in 2002.