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Varied Thrushes and Watching for Spring

January 28, 2013
Female Varied Thrush in winter

I saw this female Varied Thrush this past Sunday

I could have sworn it smelled like spring on Sunday- but it is still only late January.  However, I did see a Varied Thrush – a bird evocative of spring.

Female Varied Thrush April 2011

Female Varied Thrush April 2011

There are Varied Thrushes that spend the winter in the area, but I seldom see them until March or April. It is then that their distinctive  two-toned whistle haunts a landscape slowly waking to spring.

Male Varied Thrush April 2011

Male Varied Thrush April 2011

Two summers ago I was running on a new trail and I started two Varied Thrushes – one of the birds had flushed from a nest. The two birds wasted no time on me but got right into displaying and copulating.  I didn’t come back for two weeks and when I returned there was no activity at  the nest. The birds were in still the vicinity however, and the male was acting like there was a nest nearby. Varied Thrushes are orange and black – almost harlequin colours – but that colouring is very cryptic in the dense woods where they nest. This male was flitting from perch to perch and giving a “chuk” call. It would not be easy to find a nest by using his behaviour as a clue. I moved on but did return often enough to see that they had young later in the summer.

A young Varied Thrush feeding on thimbleberries in fall

A young Varied Thrush feeding on thimbleberries in fall

Varied Thrushes eat insects and fruit and bring mostly insects to the young. I saw this young Varied Thrush enjoying thimble berries last fall.  I also saw the remains of a Varied Thrush in the talons of a young Cooper’s Hawk later that same summer.   From thimble berry to young Varied Thrush to young Cooper’s Hawk.  And life goes on.

Varied Thrush Nest

Varied Thrush Nest

A singing Varied Thrush male

A singing Varied Thrush male

Seeing the female Varied Thrush this Sunday was a colourful reminder that spring is on the way. I suppose I am looking for spring far too early, but when I listen and look often enough, I usually find signs that spring is just around the corner – well maybe two or three corners yet – but on its way!

All photos and writing in this blog copyright J.A. Siderius

  1. kylechavez2011 permalink

    That’s one beautiful bird. Love your shots, maybe one day we will have the pleasure to come across one of these guys ourselves

  2. The American Robin where we live in the U.S. is very much like your Varied Thrush. Some are year-round residents while others migrate and return sometime in late March or early April so they are our harbingers of spring.

    • The robins here are much the same. Some stick around to eat the mountain ash or other berries but in spring, there are flocks of robins returning and calling. The robins seem to happy to nest and look for food in the open and near people. Varied Thrushes stick more to the forest.

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