The Swainson’s Thrush (Catharus ustulatus) is a medium-sized songbird that is part of the thrush family. They are approximately 6.25 to 7 inches in length and have a wingspan of 10 to 11 inches. Adult Swainson’s Thrushes weigh between 0.7 to 1.0 ounces, with males being slightly heavier than females. They have a plump body, rounded wings, and a relatively short tail.
One of the most distinguishing field marks of the Swainson’s Thrush is their buffy eyering, which contrasts sharply with their olive-brown upperparts and white underparts. Their breast is covered in large, dark spots, and their throat is white with brownish streaks. They have a relatively long, slender bill that is slightly curved downwards. Juvenile Swainson’s Thrushes are similar in appearance to adults, but with more streaking on their underparts and a buffy wash on their face.
Swainson’s Thrushes are long-distance migrants, breeding across much of North America and wintering in Central and South America. During the breeding season, they can be found in moist forests, particularly those with a dense understory. They are often found foraging on the ground, flipping over leaf litter and probing the soil for insects and other invertebrates. During migration, they can be found in a variety of habitats, including open woodlands, parks, and gardens.
The Swainson’s Thrush has a unique and melodic song that is often described as a flute-like, descending series of notes. They are known for their ability to mimic other bird species and incorporate their songs into their own repertoire. They are also known for their high-pitched “seep” call note, which is often heard during migration.
The Swainson’s Thrush is an important species for forest conservation efforts, as they rely on intact forest habitats for breeding and foraging. Their migration patterns also make them vulnerable to habitat loss and fragmentation across their range. Despite these threats, Swainson’s Thrush populations appear to be stable, and they are a common sight and sound for many birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts across North America.