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Thrushes of county include more than American Robin

May 24, 2008
Traditionally, one of the most common thrushes of our area is the well-known American Robin. This bird has been the basis of many legends — it’s one of the first signs of spring, it’s the bird that “hears” the worm, it’s the predictor of foul weather. It is a bird known to just about everyone in the country.

Today, ornithologists and amateur bird-watchers have studied the Robin probably more extensively, if not more than most other species. The Robin is one of eight species of thrushes reported in our county, one of 11 observed in Western New York and one of 18 reported in North America.

For many years it was believed that one of the first signs of spring occurred when a Robin was observed. Today we know that the Robin is an all-year bird in our county and can be observed in many local habitats all year ’round. Other members of this family include the Wood Thrush, a bird with a melodic song that is well known from backyard habitats and woodlands, along with the Veery, which sings with a sound of a downward spiral and is a common woodland bird. It is the Veery that started me on this topic, as the accompanying photo was received from the team of David Neveu and Andy Morrison, taken in the Ohio area.

Robins usually migrate in flocks and can be observed in large numbers during spring and fall various county locations. They are also common nesters in our area and have been observed sharing nesting sites with other birds.

Other members of the thrush family found in our county include the popular Eastern Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Olive-backed Thrush and the Swainsons Thrush.

Most thrushes feed upon insects and worms while breeding and fruit during migration. During the breeding season, these birds are highly territorial and protective, as I have recently experienced when accidentally and unknowingly approaching a nesting Robin on my property.

Thrushes usually start to breed at about 1 year of age. They construct an open nest lined with grassy material and sticks with, anywhere from two to 10 eggs in the nest.

The social behavior of Bluebirds is still being studied extensively. Here in New York state, we have the Eastern Bluebird named as our state bird. A member of the Lake Erie Bird Club, John Ruska, serves as president of the New York State Bluebird Society.

Many organizations and state agencies participate in constructing Bluebird houses for placement on private and public locations. Feeder owners who are able to attract Bluebirds are the envy of the neighborhood. The coloration and distinctive manners thrill many folks when they appear.

The Bluebird began to show declines in their numbers for awhile due to the disappearance of their preferred habitat, overgrown farmland. The widespread provision of providing nesting boxes is helping maintain healthy populations. Not all Bluebird houses attract the sought-after Bluebird. Data collected from volunteer nest box monitors have identified several other species of birds taking advantage of the free rent. Such birds as the Black-capped Chickadee, House Wren, European Starling, along with such nature characters as field mice and garter snakes occasionally decide that the nest box is a nice place to live.

Thrushes are foraging generalists consuming a wide variety of animals, including worms and arthropods. Most will also consume fruit when available. Long-distance migrants, such as the Veery and Swainson’s thrush, prefer woodland fruits, such as Spicebush and Flowering Dogwood. The Robin, a ground feeder, will move methodically over the ground with its head cocked, looking for movement of insects or usually worms as a source of food.

Thrushes usually place their nests at the center of their territory, with the female doing most of the building. Most nests are reused for a second brood. Thrushes are also well known for their vocal abilities. Sonogram analysis of Thrush songs have revealed some very interesting complex patterns, with parts of the song learned from others and other parts are innate or invented.

While we are always concerned with the fate of our wild species, ornithologists believe that thrush species are increasing as of the start of this century.

If you have photographs or suggestions for articles, you may send them to me at 38 Elm St., Fredonia, NY 14063. They may also be sent by e-mail to Thank you.

Article Photos

Submitted photo
A Robin and a Mourning Dove nest side by side.



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