Wood Thrush Journal

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Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)

In the wet, shaded deciduous woods of eastern North America, the melodious, flutelike "ee-oh-layo-lee" of this accomplished singer graces the forest landscape. Males sing frequently, especially in the morning and at dusk. Females sing a shorter version of the song when their nest is disturbed.

During courtship, the female engages in an interesting display to attract a mate. She fluffs her feathers and raises her wings, then swiftly flies in circles with the male following. This behavior contributes to the formation of a pair bond. The Wood Thrush places its cuplike nest of dead leaves and mosses in the fork of a tree limb. Three or four pale blue eggs are incubated for about two weeks. After hatching, both parents tend the young, first while in the nest, then later when the young have fledged. Many parents successfully raise two broods per year.

The Wood Thrush faces several perils in its struggle to survive. Nest parasitism by Brown-headed Cowbirds is a major problem, especially in the Midwestern states. Also, since the Wood Thrush prefers to nest in forests of 250 acres or larger, fragmentation of our forests is a serious problem. The Wood Thrush will nest in smaller woods but may not be successful due to predation by crows, jays, raccoons, skunks and cats.

Most Wood Thrushes winter in eastern Mexico and the Caribbean slope and northwestern Columbia. There has been extensive disturbance of forest habitat in the Wood Thrush's wintering grounds as well as its summer territory. As a result Wood Thrush numbers have been declining for the past 25 years. If we don't protect both summer and winter habitats, then fewer and fewer melodious songs will grace the forest in the spring.

artwork by John Sill © 1993 

text by Annette Finney

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