Center at Fairfield

Wood Thrush: Bird Finder for July 22

WOOD THRUSH 406

WOOD THRUSH 406

Wood Thrush
Hylocichla mustelina

by Andy Rzeznikiewicz
It’s not too late in the season to hear the beautiful, flute-like call of the Wood Thrush throughout – as its name would indicate – the woods of rural Connecticut. Listen in the early morning and evening along quiet roads or paths.

The Wood Thrush has a reddish-brown head, back, wings, and tail, and a white breast and undersides with large dark spots on the breast and sides. It has a thicker bill than other thrush species.

Where to find it: Wood Thrushes prefer deciduous forests with a shrub understory and a lot of leaf litter to hunt insects in. They are most easily found from early May through the first week of August when they are still singing.  After that, they are very secretive and not easily observed through the end of September.

How to find it: Listen for their flute-like call in the early mornings and early evenings to better zero in on their location. Quiet wooded roads, particularly dirt roads, are good spots to observe them feeding in the roadway. Veerys also behave this way, but they lack the prominent spots on the breast and aren’t as reddish-brown in color.

The dirt roads through Natchaug State Forest in Eastford and Needle’s Eye Road in Pomfret are  good locations. Hiking trails such as the Connecticut DEEP’s Airline Trail through most of its length is another great location to spot one out in the open on the pathway. Similar types of locations throughout the state should produce observations.What if there are no Wood Thrushes? If you happen to miss out on the Wood Thrush, Ovenbirds, Veerys, Black-and-white Warblers and American Redstarts are a few of the many forest birds that can be found in similar habitat. Also check the treetops for Scarlet Tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and Red-eyed Vireos.

Conservation status: The Wood Thrush is still a widespread and relatively common bird, but has shown a steady decline in population since the 1960s. Cowbird predation is one of the main reasons for their decline. A study in the Midwest found that in fragmented habitat most nests contained at least one cowbird egg. Fortunately wood thrushes will often have two broods per season.

At the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Bafflin Sanctuary in Pomfret, we have had a 14-year bird-banding study during nesting season and have actually observed a large increase in the numbers of Wood Thrushes. It is one of the most commonly caught birds in our study area with great numbers of young birds banded in July! 

Andy Rzeznikiewicz is sanctuary manager of The Connecticut Audubon Society’s Northeast sanctuaries.

Photo by Charlie Westerinen, Carolinabirds.org.

 

 

 

 

 

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