Wood Thrush

Hylocichla mustelina
Range Map

The Wood Thrush is a summer breeder in eastern North America from the Mississippi River Valley through to the Canadian Maritime provinces in the north, and south to northern Florida. In winter, they retire to southern Mexico and Central America.

So rare a visitor to the west coast, it becomes headline worthy news when found there. In my research, Guy McCaskie (of course), in 1967, issued the only report (from the Tijuana River Valley) I could find. It should come as no surprise that for me to meet these birds, I would need to travel east. It was my second expedition to south Texas in 2021, while attending spring migration on South Padre Island, that my opportunity came. Like the Veeries visiting at the same time, the Wood Thrushes seemed to prefer being low to the ground, more than in the canopy and mid-story branches above them.

Like their cousins, the Catharus thrushes, they issue their flute-like songs from deep within woodlands, delighting those fortunate enough to be within earshot.

When conditions are favorable, Wood Thrushes can raise a second brood. During such times, the male provides care and feeding duties to the first brood, while the female gets started on the second.

Today’s science does not recognise any subspecies of Wood Thrush (i.e. they are monotypic).

I met so many new bird species during spring migrations in south Texas, it would be hard to choose an all-time favorite. Perhaps it is a fool’s errand to play the favorites game. I can say for sure that meeting the Wood Thrush, and watching its rich rusty dome, chocolaty back, brightly speckled breast, and its perky attitude as it emerged from the dense understory, has left its mark on my memory.

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