Posted by: atowhee | February 11, 2023


THIS JUST IN: Motus network shows that the robin (a fellow thrush) was sensed at Ankeny shortly after 10 AM on Thursday. The recent spiradic pattern of the birds’ signal may mean it is moving east of the hill where the toiwer stands and west again, and the its signal reaches the tower.

The Varied Thrush can be common or absent, depending on many variables.  In the Willamette Valley the species generally arrives in fall and leaves in spring.  But the schedule varies.  Various years they will be abundant, other years hard to find.  Food supply, mountain snowfall, weather north and east of here—all vary, making this a truly variable thrush.  If variety is a spice, this can be a spicy bird, indeed. 

In 2022 I did not see a Varied Thrush in our south Salem garden until the second week of December.  So last winter—nada.  Now there are two—one male and on e female.  They are not a couple.  They will leaver and breed in some dense forest this spring and summer.  Right now our Varied Thrush have been seen regularly (more than once per week) for10 weeks.  Previous sightings: one in late February, 2021, and then  another two weeks later.  A varied and variable record, indeed.

Looking at a larger area around Salem, I checked the sixty years of records for our Salem Christmas Bird Count.  Of course, each year the number of counters and the weather is varied.  The number of this bold orange and black bird varies, of course.  Nearly every year some are seen.  But not always.  1990 there was a record 203 counted.  The count varies annually, no two years back-to-back will ever match.  The 2022 count: 19.

The thrush family has over 170 species across all continents except Antarctic.  With its high-pitched and ventriloqual whistle this bird has its own genus.  No near cousins.  Other Oregon thrushes include the robin, of course, Mountain and Western Bluebird, Townsend’s Solitaire, Hermit and Swainson’s Thrush.  Most family members are omnivores who like fruit.  Many are comfortable foraging on the ground though they nest above ground in trees or nest boxes.

Top two images–male in different light. Bottom: the female.

The male Varied Thrush has a darker black and denser orange coloration than the female.  She shares the same pattern, just a paler version.  That dark coloring with no white helps them disappear in the dense shade of conifer forest in the Coast Range and Cascades. When Sibley published his first field guide to western birds—guess what was on the cover. If one shows up in the eastern states it causes a birder flurry–they flock like thrushes.

Escaped zoo owl now in NYC’s Central Park–click here.

This underwater video gives new meaning to “seal of approval”–click here.


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