A Varied Thrush male....
A noisy flock of American Robins perches in the tree, gathering bright red berries. In contrast, a quiet figure with slate blue wings and dark chest stripe sits nearby, picking berries in a similar, though much more silent fashion. I focus my binoculars on this unassuming visitor - revealing much more intricate striping detail on the quiet bird's head. With graceful movements and elegant flight, I immediately recognize this visitor as a Varied Thrush. In fall and winter, this otherwise solitary species can be seen in mixed flocks with American Robins. In the late winter, spring and very early summer often the only evidence of the Varied Thrush's presence in our area is the simple yet beautiful fluting trill that's a bit buzzier and a lot less complex than the song of other thrushes, such as the Swainson's. A bird of the forest in the breeding season, we often only see the Varied Thrush in our yards and gardens in the fall and winter. It is none-the-less one of the most recognizable thrushes in our area.
Thrushes are some of my favorite birds. With the exception of bluebirds, a thrush's appearance doesn't often command our attention like that of a more flamboyant species. But its the musical capabilities of this family of birds that captures the heart. Often called the voice of the Northwestern forests, my mental pictures of Varied Thrushes often place them in the dripping wet, moss draped woodlands that we're so familiar with here in the Pacific Northwest. This month, let's learn more about this beautiful musically inclined species, the Varied Thrush.
Did you know....
Feeding and Gardening For Varied Thrushes
As mentioned above, Varied Thrushes will visit your backyard feeders in the winter. They usually come for seeds such as white proso millet but will also eat a mix of sunflower seeds and millet. On occasion I've also seen Varied Thrushes eat suet at our feeding stations. Varied Thrushes will also appreciate mealworms at the feeder if you're brave enough to offer them - live or roasted :P The Varied Thrush's favorite type of feeder is a tray feeder, though I've had them often visit hopper style feeders as well.
Offering clean, fresh water in a bird bath will also attract Varied Thrushes.
There are various plants you can use to attract Varied Thrushes your yard. Depending on where you live, you may have some of these plants growing naturally in your yard. Here's a list of Varied Thrush friendly plants:
Ash (like mountain ash)
Oaks (for acorns)
Zoom In: Species Profile
The scientific name of the Varied Thrush is Ixoreus naevius. This robin-sized thrush is 9 - 10 inches long. The male and female Varied Thrush differ slightly in appearance - the male having slate blue-gray back, wings, nap and tail, orange-brown (rufus) colored throat and underside, and a dark gray or black band across its chest. The female looks similar, but is more brown on its upperparts than the slate gray of the male. The female Varied Thrush also has a more pale, grayish chest band - or may have no chest band whatsoever. Both male and female of the species have an orange stripe just above the eye and two orange markings on each wing.
The Voice of the Varied Thrush is a buzzing, flute-like trill - repeated usually three times at a different pitch each time. They may also make a shorter call that sounds like a 'took' sound. The diet of the Varied Thrush is mainly insects and mollusks in the spring and summer, and seeds, nuts, acorns and berries in the fall and winter.
The preferred habitat of the Varied Thrush is the dense, moist, mature forests of the Pacific Northwest in the spring and summer - where they spent most of their time foraging on the forest floor. In the fall and winter, Varied Thrushes can be found at lower elevations in backyards, parks and gardens picking their way through berry bushes, trees and feeding stations with plentiful seed and suet.
The nest of the Varied Thrush is a cup-shaped nest made of sticks, tree bark and leaves, lined with moss, soft grasses and small roots and placed in a small tree or in a bush. The female lays 3 - 5 light blue speckled eggs. Varied Thrushes may have two broods in one breeding season.
The Varied Thrush is a year round resident in our area. It can be found year round in the Western part of Pacific Northwest States, in the spring and summer throughout western Canada and Alaska, and wintering farther south throughout much of California.
This month I've created a Varied
Thrush coloring page for you. You can download it in free PDF form
by clicking here.
"Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy." - Psalm 96:12 NIV
When hear the song of the Varied Thrush, I often think of this scripture. I'm reminded that all of God's creation sings for the praise of His Glory. They live their lives as a constant reminder of the Creator God - and His Wisdom, Grace and Beauty in creating all things.
By, Jessi Wasell