Species Spotlight: Varied Thrush


Written by Peter Pearsall/Photo by Dan Streiffert

The Varied Thrush is a beautiful and enigmatic bird native to the forests of the Pacific Northwest. With its striking plumage and melodic song, it is a beloved sight and sound for many nature enthusiasts.

One of the most distinctive features of the Varied Thrush is its coloration. A striking contrast of blue-gray back and wings, with a rusty orange breast and belly, set this thrush apart from other forest birds of the West. Males sport a black band across the breast. The face is adorned with dark cheeks and a bold stripe of rusty orange above the eye. Another distinctive feature is its beautiful and melodic song, which is often described as a series of clear, flute-like notes.

The Varied Thrush is a solitary bird that is typically found foraging for food on the forest floor. It feeds on a variety of items, including insects, fruit, and seeds. It is found year-round in the Pacific Northwest but ranges as far north as Alaska and Canada in summer and as far south as southern California in winter. Flocks of wintering Varied Thrushes occasionally descend from forested areas surrounding Malheur Refuge and forage for fruit and seeds on the basin floor.

Despite its wide range, the bird is not particularly common. It is considered a species of “Least Concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature; as with most bird species worldwide, however, its population is declining.

Overall, the Varied Thrush is a beautiful and fascinating species that is well worth seeking out for any bird enthusiast. With its striking plumage and melodic song, it is a true joy to behold.

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