Varied thrush

Published Nov 6, 2013 at 04:00AM

Scientific name: Ixoreus naevius

Characteristics: A robin-sized bird, 9 to 10 inches long, this striking thrush has a dark slate-blue back; orange (some call it rusty-brown) throat, belly, breast and flanks; and a black breast band and dark head. The lower belly is white and the tail is dark gray. The grayish-blue wings have two buffy-orange wing stripes.

Breeding: A cup-shaped nest lined with moss, bark strips and twigs is built in a small tree. Females lays two to five pale blue eggs flecked with brown, and incubate them for about 2 weeks.

Range: Alaska and the western edge of the Northwest Territories south to parts of the Pacific Northwest and California, although it has been observed in New York City. Migratory in Central Oregon.

Habitat: Usually found in mature coniferous, mixed or deciduous forests, but also shows up at backyard feeders and in orchards or suburban woodlands.

Food: Insects, worms, seeds, nuts and berries. Forages mostly on the ground, but also gleans insects from shrub or tree leaves.

Comments: Varied thrushes have a unique call that sounds like a drawn out buzzy or whistled tune consisting of a short series of notes with each one sounding on a different pitch. When heard in a mature forest, the song has a haunting quality. A group of thrushes is known as a “hermitage.” Sometimes called the Alaskan robin due to its northern range and robin-like appearance. The scientific name is from Greek and Latin words that roughly translate into “likes mistletoe berries from the mountains” and “spotted or varied.”

Current viewing: Cascade Mountain trails, Tumalo Falls area, Shevlin Park and other locations.

— Damian Fagan is an East Cascades Audubon Society volunteer and COCC Community Learning instructor. He can be reached at damian.fagan@hotmail.com.

Sources: Oregon Department of Wildlife Resources and “The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds” by John Terres

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