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Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)

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Birding without Sight

It can be difficult to identify a bird by its appearance, and just as challenging to do so by its song. But birding by ear is a great way to get to know birds. A blind birder in Kitsap County, Washington, was puzzled by a haunting bird song. She thought it might be a special song of the American... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching by ear

Where Are They Now?

Where have the birds of summer gone? The Swainson's Thrush is wintering in Central or South America, maybe as far south as Bolivia. Warbling Vireos are now spread through much of Central America, while Black-headed Grosbeaks have migrated to Mexico. This Orange-crowned Warbler also makes Mexico... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, vocalization

Nisqually, National Jewel

Mt. Rainier's majestic, snow-capped crown is the pre-eminent landmark of Rainier National Park. Its glaciers and snowmelt nourish rich natural habitats, including the Nisqually Delta, far downstream. This meeting of waters is a lush expanse of marsh, tidelands, and tree-lined streams. The... read more »

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Bird Sound Types and Qualities Part III

When it's just too hard to see the bird you hear, let your ears take over! Listen for the qualities of the sound as well as the pattern. A flute-like and upward-spiraling sound is characteristic of this Swainson's Thrush. Quite a contrast to the plaintively whistled notes of a Black-capped... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

What Bird Has the Coolest Song?

There are more than 10,000 species of birds in the world, and each has a unique song. When we recently asked, "Which bird makes the coolest sound?" over 50 species were nominated! So which bird received the most votes? The Common Raven landed at number three, with the Western Meadowlark just... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  vocalization

Swainson's Birds

William John Swainson, ornithologist, author, illustrator, was born in October 1789. He settled in New Zealand, and it's quite likely that he never saw any of the birds named for him. But because of Swainson's reputation and knowledge about birds, the Swainson's Warbler, Swainson's Thrush, and... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, ornithology

Salmonberry Bird

The native names of birds sometimes distill the essence of their appearance or behavior. In the Cherokee language, for instance, the Meadowlark is called "star," because of the way the bird's tail spreads out when it soars. To the Northwest Coastal people, this Swainson's Thrush is known as the ... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration

Swainson's Thrush, Power Napper

When the Swainson's Thrush departs its wintering grounds in Mexico or South America, it travels at night. When does it sleep? Recent research by scientists at Bowling Green State University suggests that during migration, Swainson's Thrushes take hundreds of "power naps," lasting only a few... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, science

Swainson's Thrushes - Reassured by their Return

Swainson's Thrushes return each spring, having made long journeys from Central and South America. They've flown over mountains, cities, and miles of water. Their safe arrival is in no way assured. Listen in late May and early June for their exploratory call, a bright "whit!" Later, in the summer,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, vocalization

Three Brown Thrushes

The Swainson's Thrush, the Hermit Thrush, and the Veery are small, brown birds, but their songs clearly distinguish them. The Swainson's Thrush announces its presence in early spring with subtle, limpid "whit" or "wink" sounds. Many rate it among the finest singers. A Veery's phrases... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  birdwatching by ear, sound, vocalization

Voices and Vocabularies - Exquisite Thrush Songs

Some believe the song of the Wood Thrush to be the most beautiful bird song in North America. Others select the song of the Hermit Thrush. Still others name the singing of the Swainson’s Thrush. How do thrushes like this Veery create such fine music? The answer is that the birds have a double... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ornithology, science, sound, vocalization

Geolocators Track Migrating Songbirds

With many migratory songbirds in North America declining at an alarming rate, it’s important to map their travels – and learn what they require for food and shelter.Until recently, it was difficult to monitor the precise journey of migratory birds. Thanks to the development of geolocators like... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, science

How Evolution Works, Featuring Dr. Mike Webster

After breeding in Alaska, some Swainson’s Thrushes migrate across Canada to the East Coast before turning south to Ecuador. Others migrate directly down the Pacific Coast to the same destination. Why are some are traveling twice the distance? Dr. Mike Webster of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, migration, science

Nighttime Flights of Songbirds

Some cloudless night in September, when the air is clear, you may see birds flying across the yellow face of the moon! September is peak migration time for millions of songbirds heading south from North America to more tropical latitudes. Nocturnal migrants of the same species, such as orioles,... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, vocalization

Long-Distance Migration Takes Fuel and Water

Long-distance migration can be hard on a bird’s body. For example, this Swainson’s Thrush might migrate between northern Canada and South America, twice a year. In the weeks before such a long journey and during key stopovers en route, the thrush eats like crazy to put on fat. But during the... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, migration
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