This fall, keep your eyes open for a rare look at a bird that is more common than you think: The Swainson’s Thrush. Swainson’s Thrush belongs to the same family as the Robin and Bluebird — you can see the “resemblance” in the shape of its long tail as well as its wide, ringed eyes.
Does Swainson's Thrush migrate?
The best time to see Swainson’s Thrush is during migration season. They spend the breeding season in the Rocky Mountain west and the far northern U.S., along with a large swath of Canada. As they head to Central and South America for the winter, they can be spotted far and wide, prompting people to wonder if they’ve come across a rare bird.
Where to find Swainson’s Thrush
These birds are drawn to areas with trees and shrubs, allowing them to search for insects and berries as well as take cover from predators. Because of their earthy-hued plumage and speckled breast, they can be somewhat too camouflaged to easily locate. Your best bet for finding one is getting familiar with their songs and calls.
If you summer in the Rockies, their flute-like songs ring through the mountain forests. One behavior to watch for is males competing for territory with a sing-off that sometimes escalates to physical attacks.
During migration, the high-pitched calls they make to keep tabs on each other can sound a lot like a chorus of spring peepers.
Along the Pacific, however, you’ll find two slightly differing varieties of Swainson’s Thrush. The russet-backed thrushes have reddish-brown feathers versus the standard olive-backed birds, and their songs have some variation.
What do you feed a Swainson's Thrush?
Swainson’s Thrush lives primarily on insects and berries. They’re drawn to areas with trees and shrubs, where they can search for insects and take cover from predators. They’ll also hop along the forest floor, pecking and scratching at leaf litter.
Though not commonly found at the bird feeder, they will come in for a landing for finely cut seeds and pieces of chopped nuts. To entice a migrating Swainson's Thrush, try Lyric Fine Tunes No Waste Mix.