The Wood Thrush

December 12, 2011

It is “the sweetest sound in nature,” wrote author John Burroughs, while Henry David Thoreau once said “The Wood Thrush alone declares the immortal wealth and vigor that is in the forest. Whenever a man hears it, he is young, and Nature is in her Spring.”

The Wood Thrush or Hylocichla mustelina is the largest of the spot breasted thrushes that migrate back to our area each spring and is the easiest to identify. It is distinguished from the other thrushes by its rusty-orange colored head and large spots on its breast.

The Wood Thrush is an outstanding virtuoso, often described as flutelike as it sings from a high and concealed perch in Mount Auburn Cemetery’s Consecration Dell. The song of the Wood Thrush is really three-parted – the first part is almost inaudible unless you are really close and have a “good ear,” the second part is the loudest and most recognizable and has been described as sounding like “ee oh lay,” and the third part is a low trill.

The Wood Thrush sings the most at dawn and again at dusk.

Listen to the Wood Thrush at Cornell University’s Laboratory of Ornithology online archive from their world renowned Macaulay Library – the world’s largest natural sound and video archive of animal behavior.

During the day and when not singing, the Wood Thrush spends a lot of time on the ground moving through the leaf litter searching for insects. Mount Auburn Cemetery has been fortunate to have a pair successfully breed in Consecration Dell in the recent past.  Both parents help in rearing the young, however only the female incubates. The nesting birds are usually gone by early September.

Recently the Wood Thrush has become a species of special concern – as the number of neotropical migrant birds has decreased over much of their former range.  Forest fragmentation both here in the breeding ground as well as in the winter range has had a measurable impact on the population.

The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and the USDA Forest Service coordinate Birds in Forested Landscapes, a citizen-science project that links volunteer birders and professional ornithologists in a study of the habitat requirements of North American forest birds, including the Wood Thrush.  To learn more about the project and how you can participate, visit: .

About the Author: Bob Stymeist

Bob Stymeist is Bird Observer's Bird Sightings Compiler and a regular bird walk leader for the Friends of Mount Auburn. View all posts by Bob Stymeist →

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