Swainson's Thrush

Catharus ustulatus


Early Spring Date: April 25
Late Spring Date: May 31
Most Frequently Seen May 9-18

Swainson's Thrushes are common at Monticello Park in the spring. They begin to arrive in early May, and the best time to see them is during the second and third weeks of May. The ones passing through Monticello are on their way to breed in Canada and the northern United States.

Where to See Them in the Park

Swainson's Thrushes are usually seen on the ground. A lot of them forage on the ridge, and some forage near the dog exercise area. Occasionally, they will go into the stream to bathe or drink.

Physical Description


Swainson's Thrush
Swainson's Thrush - Photo by Michael Pollack

The back of the Swainson's Thrush is olive brown, similar to the back of the Gray-cheeked Thrush. One of the best fieldmarks is the white eyering and white "spectacles" (the area between the eye and the bill). The sexes are similar.

Swainson's Thrush
Swainson's Thrush - Photo by Michael Pollack

The spotting on the breast is much heavier than on a Veery.

Vocalizations

Swainson's Thrushes sing more at Monticello than some of the other spotted thrushes. Their beautiful song is an ascending spiraling whistle. The call note is an emphatic WHIT, and it often can be heard along with the song when the thrushes are on the ridge. Some vocalize near the entrance to the park.

Hear the vocalizations of the Swainson's Thrush.

Notes

The Swainson's Thrush might be split into two species. They winter in Central and South America, and there are two distinct wintering populations who are becoming genetically different.

Origin of Names

Common Names: Swainson's after the 19th century English naturalist William Swainson. The origin of thrush is unclear, but it might come from the Anglo-Saxon thryce, which means "thrush".
Genus Name: Catharus means "pure", possibly in reference to thrush song.
Species Name: Ustulatus means "singed", from the plumage color.

Swainson's Thrush video footage

Return to the Index