More on the Varied Thrush
The Varied Thrush returned briefly to the feeder in Fredericton last week, giving me the opportunity to get some good photographs. It was on the ground briefly feeding on what looked like cracked corn. It is a secretive bird which slips in quickly for a quick feeding opportunity before disappearing into the deep forest where it is more comfortable. I will not likely stay around long and may be gone now. Where it will go is an interesting thought. It is so far from its home range (British Columbia northward to Alaska) that it is not likely to return there. Will it go to Labrador? It would be good to have a transmitter on it so we could find out. This species likely has a lot more to tell us about its life history.
There have been about 20 records of their appearance here in New Brunswick. An early one is described by Austin Squires (Recent Changes in the Abundance of Certain Species of Birds In New Brunswick, 1960, p. 75). That one appeared at Stanley in November, 1959 and stayed until March 25, 1960 when it was collected. Collecting these rare birds was much frowned upon by birders at that time but there still were a few 'collectors' around. Other records around that time were from Maine (December to January 1956-1957), southern New Hampshire (January 1958), and Connecticut (February to March 1960). According to Squires, the only other sighting in eastern Canada was one in Quebec in August 1890.
The Varied Thrush is a rare feeder bird. It much prefers feeding in the forest especially on the forest floor where it eats insects, spiders, earthworms, snails, weed seeds, acorns and berries. It prefers shady, damp forests from western coastal areas to subalpine habitats. It often nests at higher elevations and flies to lower elevations to feed. Its nest is made of grasses, twigs, moss and mud and is lined with fine grasses and is placed on the limb of a shrub or tree 1.5 to 6 metres (5 to 20 feet) above the ground. It is described as a flat, shallow structure in North American Birds Eggs by Chester A. Reed. Three to seven pale greenish-blue eggs with a few distinct brown spots are laid. They hatch in 14 to 16 days.
The nest sounds much like our robin's nest except the eggs are speckled, the blue is paler, and the nest is shallower. Wouldn't it be fun to see this nest and compare it with our robin's nest? The sightings of rare birds have made birding this winter interesting. Keep your eyes open. You never know what else may show up.