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North Carolina Thrush Birds

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TMHughes enjoys birding and mountain biking in North Carolina.

Eastern bluebirds are one common thrush found in NC.

Eastern bluebirds are one common thrush found in NC.

What Is a Thrush?

Thrushes, as a group, are one of the most widespread birds in North Carolina and the world. This grouping includes several different genera such as Turdidae, Catharus, and Myadestes. Thrushes, as a group, tend to be small, plump birds with grey or brown plumage. Their chests and bellies are usually a lighter color and/or speckled in some way. Thrushes are plump birds with short, sharp beaks. They prefer wooded areas and scrub where they can forage for food on the ground. Thrushes like to eat insects but also feed on worms, snails, and fruit. One common variety can be seen in front yards after rain storms eating worms flooded out of their holes.

Most thrush do not live in NC or even the U.S. year-round. For the most part, they all migrate to Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean for the winter. In summer they move back north where they make their nest and rear young. A few thrush species nest and live in NC while others move through on their way north to more favorable regions.

Wood Thrush Sings a Sweet Song

The Wood Thrush is my favorite of all the thrush family. It is a medium-sized thrush with a rich coppery color on top and a speckled light tan underside. Wood Thrush love lightly wooded areas such as backyards and can be seen hopping around wood piles, bushes, and forest edges. It is not well known, but the Wood Thrush has one of the most beautiful songs of any bird in the North Carolina forest. I love the sound of the wood thrush call. It has an eerie melodic quality that resonates through the forest.

Wood Thrush are known to be a shy and reclusive birds. This is odd since its call, a clear and ringing ee-o-lay, is one of the loudest and most recognizable. Perhaps the penetrating nature of the call is a warning to other birds. Wood Thrush are very territorial and will defend their areas. These birds are monogamous, mating for life with the same partner each year. Wood Thrush are only part-time residents of North Carolina, migrating to Mexico and Central America in winter. These birds will forage for food and can also be found near feeders sometimes.

Wood Thrush will hunt for insects, snails, worms, and berries among the underbrush. Its rusty, coppery color and barred undersides are perfect camouflage for the bird as it moves along the forest floor. Though once widespread these birds are declining in numbers. Several factors including acid rain and competition are to blame.

Wood Thrush can be seen hopping amongst the underbrush in NC back yards, parks and forests.

Wood Thrush can be seen hopping amongst the underbrush in NC back yards, parks and forests.

Eastern Bluebirds

Eastern Bluebirds are one of the smallest and most easily identified North Carolina thrushes. Who hasn't seen the bright blue flash of a bluebird as it zipped through the yard or dropped stealthily out of a tree to snatch a bug off the ground? Bluebirds are plump little birds with bright blue heads, wings, and tails with a ruddy brown chest and shoulders. At first glance, because of their bright color, they may be mistaken for an indigo bunting but the brown chest will quickly give it away.

Bluebirds like semi-open spaces with grassy areas and taller scrubs mixed in. They like to sit on a high perch like a branch or telephone wire where they can wait for prey. Once spotted the bluebird will drop down from its perch and snatch the insect from the air or off the ground. Bluebirds are year-round residents of North Carolina but are less conspicuous in winter. During the summer they will nest in boxes built especially for them. If cleaned out each year a good bluebird box will attract the same pair again and again.

Robins Are a Well-Known, True Thrush

Robins are the largest and perhaps most well know of the American thrushes. This bird is a common site in North Carolina yards, parks, cities, forests, and wild lands. Robins range across the entire North American continent except for the very far northern reaches of Arctic Canada. Robins are most often seen in front yards and open parks pulling earthworms or other insects out of the ground. Their bright red chests and way of hopping across the ground are easy to spot and one of the early signs of spring.

Robins are a social bird, though they tend to remain independent during the warmer months. In the fall they can gather in large flocks as they prepare to make the winter migration. Northern populations merely move lower into the warmer southern states where they may be found year-round. Robins will come to feeders, especially in the winter when suet and dried fruit are popular choices. Robins will also come to mealworms.

The Hermit Thrush

The Hermit Thrush is a part-time resident of North Carolina and a welcome visitor. These birds live in the northern deciduous forests and only come south to North Carolina during the winter months. The Hermit Thrush is much smaller than the Wood Thrush but due to its coloration is sometimes mistaken for one. The way to tell is that in summer you are seeing a Wood Thrush and in winter you are seeing a Hermit Thrush.

Hermit Thrush is similar in size and appearance to others in the group. It is a little smaller than the American Robin but has the same round body, short neck, and upturned bill. This bird is rusty colored on top, similar to the Wood Thrush, with spotting and smudging on the chest and belly. The wings and tail have the brightest color and are usually downturned. Another trait is long legs and toes. I think this feature is more apparent when the birds are perched or on the ground.

Hermit Thrush like to be close to the ground. This bird will perch in low bushes, overhanging brush or on log piles where they will lurk awaiting their prey. You can spot these birds bobbing along the edges of clearings and trails hunting for insects or looking for fallen berries. This bird is not common in backyards but may appear in more rural areas. They are also rare to find at a feeder. You may be able to attract one to mealworms if you have a good spot.

Veery Only Seen in the Deep Forest

The Veery is another part-time resident of NC. The good news is that they can be found twice a year while the birds make their annual migration. The bad news is that the Veery prefers the deep forest so you will likely not see one unless on a hike. Trips to Pisgah National Forest, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and other parks are great places to spot one. Veery are similar to other thrush but easy to distinguish. The upper parts are a much lighter brown and the spotting is less distinct. The round body, short neck, and sharp bill of this bird resemble a wren although a bit large. Look for Veery's flitting among the understory of the forest, bobbing along streamsides or trails and clearings. Veery's like insects and berries, hunting for them on the forest floor under leaves and among the brush.

The Veery, a type of thrush, can be confused with the Wood Thrush and some types of wrens.

The Veery, a type of thrush, can be confused with the Wood Thrush and some types of wrens.

More About Birds in North Carolina


Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on May 04, 2013:

Most insightful about such birds and you just know how to get to the point of each with the best researched and the lay out of a hub.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on April 27, 2013:

All thrushes have such beautiful and melodic songs. You did a great job and your work is interesting and to the point.

Mary Craig from New York on April 26, 2013:

If found this hub interesting and enlightening. Lots of good information on the various birds in North Carolina. We share a few here in New York, the robin of course being one of them. Your pictures and video are top-notch.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.