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Swainson's Thrush Catharus ustulatus


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Swainson's Thrush
credit: Matt Reinbold/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Turdidae, Thrushes view all from this family

Description ADULT Has olive-brown upperparts overall. Pale buff throat is bordered by dark line and face and ear coverts are also buff. Underparts are pale with yellow-buff wash and dark spots on breast, subtle gray spots on lower breast, and olive-gray flanks. JUVENILE Olive-brown and spotted, but first-fall bird resembles adult with buff tips to wing coverts.

Dimensions Length: 6 1/2 -7 3/4" (17-20 cm)

Habitat Common summer visitor (present mainly May-Sep) to coniferous forests. Winters in South America.

Observation Tips Learn and listen for its song.

Range Western Canada, Eastern Canada, Florida, Mid-Atlantic, Great Lakes, Southwest, New England, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Northwest, Alaska, Texas, Southeast, California

Voice Song is a series of fluty whistles; tone rises and intensity diminishes throughout sequence. Call is a sharp quiirp.

Discussion Similar to other Catharus thrushes, but separable with care. Pale buff "spectacles" (eyering and line continuing to base of bill) are reliable features. Compared to Veery, note "cold"-looking olive (not "warm" reddish brown) upperparts, dark line bordering side of throat and more distinct spotting on breast; compared to Hermit Thrush, note lack of contrast between back color and tail (tail is contrastingly reddish in Hermit Thrush); "spectacles" and buff (not gray) cheeks allow separation from Gray-cheeked. Sexes are similar.