Swainson's Thrush

Swainson's Thrush Video Clips

Swainson's Thrush
Swainson's Thrush

Like most thrushes, Swainson's Thrushes are typically very shy. However, we regularly see them at the bird bath and around the garden.

Swainson's Thrush Sound Clip

Donald Kroodsma, author of The Singing Life of Birds said, "There's this wonderful Zen parable ...

'If you listen to the thrush and hear a thrush,
you've not really heard the thrush.
But if you listen to a thrush and hear a miracle,
then you've heard the thrush.'"

We recorded a Swainson's Thrush singing outside our bedroom window with a bionic ear in July of 2004. The only woodland thrush song that goes up in pitch is that of the Swainson's Thrush. To listen to a sound file and view a waveform and spectrogram image click here.

Swainson's Thrush (Juvenile)
Swainson's Thrush (Juvenile)

Swainson's Thrush with Juvenile Feathers

Notice the juvenile feathers in the above image. Those white spots are juvenile feathers that will be replaced with darker adult feathers. The white spots on the wings are covert feathers and they will be the last ones to be lost. These covert feathers thicken the edge of the wing allowing air to move faster over the wing. Covert feathers are only one of three kinds of wing feathers. The two other kinds of wing feathers are primary, used like fingers to reduce drag; and secondary, used to control drag by moving up and down.

Attracting Thrushes with Water

By adding a water feature to your backyard wildlife habitat, you'll be able to attract all of those secretive or shy birds that don't frequent the feeders, like thrushes. Watch a video of a juvenile Swainson's Thrush bathing.

Differences Between Swainson's & Hermit Thrushes

The San Diego Natural History Museum's web page Hermit and Swainson's Thrushes is an excellent source for detailed information on these thrushes. For example,

Swainson's Thrush resembles the Hermit in being plain brown above and spotted below, but careful study reveals many differences. The sides of a Swainson's Thrush's head are a rich tawny color, those of a Hermit dull gray-brown. The Swainson's eye ring is likewise tawny, a Hermit's whitish. The tawny color extends across the breast and is much deeper than in even subspecies vaccinius of the Hermit. The breast spots are smaller and triangular, not drop-shaped as in the Hermit (the Hermit's scientific name, guttatus, means "having drops" in Latin). Swainson's flanks are brown, not gray as in all the western subspecies of the Hermit (the brown-flanked eastern subspecies of the Hermit has never been proven to reach California). The contrast in the rump and tail, of course, is one of the best marks: in Swainson's the tail is nearly the same russet brown as the back, whereas in the Hermit there is always strong contrast between the rufous tail and brown or grayish back (more in the gray-backed subspecies like slevini and sequoiensis).

You can read more about the Hermit Thrush in the Backyard Birds section along with viewing video clips of the Hermit Thrush.