Swainson’s Thrush

While on a walk at the park recently, I saw a brown thrush sitting still near a rock wall at the edge of the curvy trail between the lower and upper parking lots. It seemed disinclined to move, even as someone walked within a couple of feet of it. At first glance, it appeared to have food in its mouth, and I wondered if it was a Hermit Thrush already feeding young, but a more careful look led me to think it was actually a Swainson’s Thrush, and it was way too early for carrying food.

One of its eyes stayed mostly closed, while the other one seemed alert, and I wondered if perhaps it had hit a window or something (though there was not a window especially close to where I found it). The stuff that I had first thought was food actually appeared to be the brown papery stuff that covers spruces tips before they emerge.

I approached the bird and it hopped away from me, though not very vigorously. I followed it a bit to see if I might be able to pick it up – as clearly something was going on with it. It had enough energy to keep getting away, and I didn’t want to disturb it too much, so I herded it into some thicker vegetation, thinking that it could rest there without as much chance of being caught by something that might want to eat it.

I heard later in the day that the Raptor Center had picked up a Swainson’s Thrush from the park that was quite skinny, and I suspect it was the same one. This is only one of a couple reports of Swainson’s Thrushes I’ve heard of so far this spring, which seems a bit slow/late. They are usually singing around the end of the 4th week of May (and arriving a day or two before, at least), but not so much this year.

Questions:

  • What happened to this bird? Did it suffer a physical trauma, or was it just weak?
  • Why did it have spruce tip covers on its beak?
  • So many spring migrants seemed early (and/or moving through quickly) this year, why are the Swainson’s Thrushes late?

About matt goff

I am an aspiring naturalist who seeks to learn all that I can about the more-than-human aspects of this place that is my home.
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2 Responses to Swainson’s Thrush

  1. Jen Cedarleaf says:

    Matt,

    This is the thrush that we admitted to the Raptor Center. I pulled a bit of sticky sap-like stuff from it’s mouth. It was pretty skinny and it sure was acting like it hit something. Unfortunately it died overnight.

    I think I heard the beginnings of a Swainson’s song this morning over by my house, but it was just the start and then aborted. They must just be warming up!

    Jen

  2. matt goff says:

    Thanks for the update – bummer that it didn’t make it. I was pretty sure I heard a stanza or two in the distance, but haven’t had much clear song from them yet.

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