Thrush songs are “haunting and melodic”


I was visiting a friend in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire, and right outside the window, about 20 feet tall in a charming tree, was a nest with two parents busy feeding and sitting on some babies. The parents were a beautiful brown above with a creamy white breast dotted with dark spots. Being the not-great-ornithologist that I am, I immediately identified them as Hermit Thrushes and spent most of the weekend trying to get a photo in which the birds weren’t obscured by the birds. leaves. Fortunately, my birdwatcher friend, Will Broussard (Maine Coast Audubon), let me know that they were actually wood thrushes. I didn’t know anything about Wood Thrushes but, as usual, once I knew they were there I started to hear them everywhere … and I also realized that a lot of my previous ones Sightings of hermit thrushes had probably been wood thrushes.

“Thrushes can harmonize with themselves!” “

There are seven species of thrush in Maine: the eastern bluebird and the American robin, both colored with red on the breast, and 5 other species with spots on the breast, the hermit thrush, Wood Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush and Bicknell’s Thrush. Lily of the valley. The latter five have a similar coloration – brown backs and heads with speckled white breasts help them blend into the forest floor where they do most of their foraging. What distinguished my Wood Thrush from a Hermit Thrush was how bold her chest patches were. Wood Thrush has extremely distinct black spots on the breast, while the spots on the Hermit Thrush’s breast are a bit fuzzy. Wood Thrush has the darkest and most distinct mammary spots of all our local thrushes.

A Wood Thrush perched in a tree in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire.

Hermit Thrush songs are one of my all time favorites. They are bewitching and melodic and evoke the forest in summer. Cornell Lab describes them as beautiful, haunting songs that “start with a sustained whistle and end with softer, echo-like tones, described as oh, holy holy, ah, purity eeh purity, sweetly sweet …” ( www.allaboutbirds. org). I’d never noticed their song before, but it turns out Wood Thrush has an equally haunting appeal, described by Cornell Lab as a “flute-like ee-oh-lay.” Other spotted-breasted thrushes also sing beautifully. A 2016 Herb Wilson article contained this wonderful detail about all the songs of the Spotted-breasted Thrushes: “Their flute-like songs are ethereal, in part because these thrushes can control the left and right sides of their syrinx, the organ that produces sound in birds. Thrushes can harmonize with themselves! (Colby College Community Web). Thoreau wrote: “Only the thrush declares the immortal wealth and vigor that is in the forest. Once you hear a Hermit or Wood Thrush (or any Spotted-breasted Thrush) sing, you will never forget the call. It’s really haunting.

A wood thrush in its nest in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire.

What I learned from this introduction to Wood Thrushes is that there are more different thrushes in our woods than I knew and that the only way to know them is (for me) to meet. I observed the parents of the wood thrush over the weekend – both parents brought food, the mother kept the babies warm (only the female has a brood). I watched them forage in the woods, turning over the leaves to find frightened insects. I listened to the male’s haunting call at the end of the day. I came home and now I hear both Hermit Thrush and Wood Thrush calling for woods, and I feel like they are old friends.

Susan pike

Susan Pike, researcher and professor of environmental science and biology at Dover High School, welcomes your ideas for future column topics. She can be reached at Read more of her Nature News columns online at and, and follow her on Instagram @pikeshikes.


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