Thursday, August 18, 2016

Swainson's Thrush

One of our Outstanding Songsters

Swainson's Thrush [Internet Photo]
The Swainson's Thrush is one of our common summer resident.  It breeds here in mixed or coniferous woods near water.  Its breeding range covers Atlantic Canada and Maine westward to British Columbia and southern Alaska.  It arrives here in May and usually leaves in September.  In the interim we are blessed with its wonderful flute-like song.  

The Swainson's Thrush is an inconspicuous bird.  It is about 17 cm (7 in) long and is an overall gray-brown colour.  It is identified by its buffy eyering and lores (area from the eye to the beak).  It is gray-brown on its head, back and tail (although western races show some reddish brown).  There is buff on the side of the head below the eye, the bill is buff at the base and black at the tip, the buff colour is on the throat and extends down into the breast, the numerous breast spots are round and the flanks are olive-gray.  There is a dark side throat stripe and the legs are pinkish gray.  

On a recent trip the to the headwaters of the Nepisiguit River a Swainson's Thrush nest was found.  See the photos below.  The nest was made of twigs, moss, lichens, leaves and bark.  It was built near the ground in an area sheltered by bunchberry and other low bushes and forbs.  The nest contained 3 medium-blue eggs lightly speckled with brown.  We flushed the thrush off the nest so were able to identify it.  We moved away quickly in order to not disturb the sitting bird.  

Swainson's Thrush Nest
The Swainson's Thrush is a trans-gulf flyer.  The eastern race migrates to South America by flying directly over the Gulf of Mexico.  The western race migrates down the Pacific coast and winters in Mexico.  This species was named after William Swainson, an English ornithologist.  It was formerly known as the Olive-backed Thrush.  

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