|Cool fact: By analyzing data from Christmas Bird Counts and Project FeederWatch, Lab of Ornithology researchers have discovered a biennial cycle in abundance of Varied Thrushes throughout most of their wintering range. The underlying cause of these changes in abundance is not certain. Nevertheless, as in other species with two-year cycles of winter abundance, the cyclical variation in the availability of food sources such as acorns may be responsible.|
Listen to a recording of a Varied Thrush from the
Eerie, vibrating bell-like tones that slowly fade away, sung on five or six different notes and separated by long, deliberate pauses, the song of the Varied Thrush is heard most frequently at dawn, dusk, or after one of the frequent rains in its forest habitat. Indeed, this thrush is most common in the dense wet hemlock, fir, and spruce forests of the Pacific Coast, from southern Alaska to California. It is a shy and retiring bird on its breeding grounds, where its color and pattern blend in with the surroundings. Populations are especially dense in the Snoqualmie National Forest of Washington State and in Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island.
Varied Thrushes forage on the ground in dense thickets by flicking aside leaves and debris to expose insects, earthworms, and other small invertebrates as well as seeds, fruit, and acorns.
Some seasonal movement away from the most northern part of its range occurs, although a few may linger, suffering through heavy snows. There is also some movement from higher altitudes. After the breeding season, a somewhat wider variety of wooded habitats are used, and the birds may even become bold enough to visit feeders. Amazingly, this bird of the Northwest occasionally strays as far east as New England in fall and winter.
Description: The Varied Thrush is approximately the size of a robin, distinctly patterned and colored, and is unlikely to be mistaken for anything else.
The male is bluish gray on its nape, back, rump, and tail. An orange stripe extends behind the eye over a black patch on the cheek and ear. The underparts from the throat to the slightly mottled belly are orange, interrupted by a wide, black breast band. The wings are bluish with two orange wingbars and an orange patch on the opened wing. The outer tail feathers are tipped in white.
Females are similar in pattern to males, but where the male is bluish they are grayish brown, the breast band is gray instead of black, and the orange color is lighter.