Familiar to nature enthusiasts everywhere, the song of the male wood thrush has been called one of the most beautiful sounds that any animal produces. They are braver than many other thrushes, though not as bold as their cousin, the robin.

Physical Description

The “weasel” in their scientific name refers to the rich, red-brown coloring on their head and the back of their neck. Their backs, wings and tail are a duller gray-brown. Their breasts and bellies are white with black or dark brown round spots like a Dalmatian’s. They have dull white rings around their eyes.

Like many other thrushes, wood thrushes have unusually large eyes, which helps them see and navigate in the shady forests they prefer.

Size

Adult wood thrushes are 7 to 8.5 inches (18 to 22 centimeters) long with a wingspan of about 13 inches (33 centimeters).

Native Habitat

Thick forests are a wood thrush’s preferred habitat. They can breed in almost any woodland, but have the best survival and reproduction rates in larger forests. Moist soil at the ground level is more important than forest density. 

Wood thrushes breed throughout the eastern United States and southeastern Canada. For the winters, they migrate down to southern Mexico and Central America. Each wood thrush tends to pick small territories and stick to them, both in the summer breeding grounds and in their overwinter range. On average, wood thrushes fly about 1,370 miles (2,200 km) each year. 

Communication

Their beautiful song is usually one of the first voices heard in the dawn and dusk bird choruses. Their flute-like song is usually written “ee-oh-lay.” They can sing with both sides of their syrinx (vocal organ), resulting in a sort of internal duet, where they harmonize with themselves. 

Food/Eating Habits

Wood thrushes rarely visit backyard bird feeders. During the summers, they eat mainly small animals, including spiders, earthworms, snails, small salamanders and insects. Calcium from snail shells is especially important for females during the breeding season. During migration and the winters, they switch to high-calorie fruits and berries.

They feed on the forest floor, hopping about while turning over leaves to look for insects and poking their beaks in the soil.

Social Structure

Outside of the breeding season, wood thrushes are usually solitary, though they will occasionally form small flocks of several different species. 

Conservation Efforts

Wood thrushes need dense, large, and high-quality forest habitats. They can survive in heavily wooded suburban areas, but the smaller the forests fragments are, the less well they do. Habitat fragmentation and degradation are major threats to their population numbers. They are also at risk from predation from jays, crows, raccoons and especially domestic cats.

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