Thrushes: A Family of Variety

By Dave Hanks

This family contains many species in North America. The colors range from our three colorful bluebird species, the so very well-known American Robin, the Varied Thrush (with its orangey underside), the grayish/brown Townsend's Solitaire with its white eye ring and longer tail, to the brownish (more difficult to identify) species. The brown ones most common to southern Idaho are the Hermit Thrush and Swainson’s Thrush.

The Hermit is characterized by its reddish/rusty tail. It is also darker and more heavily spotted on its underside. Swainson’s has fewer spots and has a slightly creamy throat.

Even though our continent has a wide variety of Thrushes, they are considered as “Old World” species. There are more species in the eastern hemisphere than in ours. Thrushes are small to medium-sized birds, that are plump, soft-plumaged, and in the family Turdidae. They are to be found in wooded areas and usually feeding on the ground. Their diet includes insects, worms, snails, and fruit.

Many species are permanent residents of warm climates, but others migrate over long distances. The American Robin does not always migrate – the males especially. We have many berry producing bushes and fruit producing trees on our small farm. The result is that we always have some robins on our place all year long.

The songs of many thrushes (like the Wood Thrush of the east) are considered to be among the most beautiful in the bird world. Once in Northern British Columbia, we were recuperating from long distances of travel by soaking in a hot pool – called Liard Hot Springs. We suddenly heard a most intriguing and mesmerizing song. We finally located the bird in a tree overhead. It was a Varied Thrush. It was hypnotizing to lay in the hot water, in the twilight, and to be serenaded.

(Hermit Thrush top – Swainson’s Thrush bottom)