Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Wood Thrush

The Wood Thrush is in a fairly large family of birds which also includes the American Robin. Until recently, I didn't realize bluebirds are also in the thrush family. The Wood Thrush is the official bird of the District of Columbia.

Our porch wraps around the side of the house and that part is only a few feet from the edge of the woods. There is a good-sized river birch just off the porch where a female Wood Thrush decided to build her nest a couple of years ago at about this same time of year.

The female builds her nest in three to six days searching the understory for select dried leaves and other materials.

I haven't been able to find any information about whether the male helps in the building of the nest. I watched both of them over the period of nest building and, although the male stayed close, I never saw them both bringing in material for the nest. I will say, however, that both sexes appear essentially the same.

The reason I said all that is to say this: if you look at the pattern of spots on (the bird's) upper left breast area, you will see that there are two distinctly different birds. Since nesting Wood Thrushes are highly territorial, I would guess that one of these birds is the female and the other the male.

I am pretty sure this is the male in this image because the female was busy gathering leaves while he sat on a branch nearby. Unfortunately, the images in which I am almost sure I was looking at the male, never showed the male from the left side.

The female Wood Thrush is not known to sing, but the male has an ethereal, flute like song. He has the ability to emit two distinctly different notes from his voice box at the same time!

True to form, the female sited her nest in a fork of the tree as many Wood Thrushes prefer. I was surprised at how many other species of birds came in to take a peek at her work. I saw a Northern Cardinal male come in while she was in the nest. An Eastern Towhee looked the nest over while she was away on one trip. On another occasion, a female cowbird snuck in, very quickly dropped an egg, and left.

Ultimately, the nest failed due to a gray squirrel that came in and destroyed the nest. I don't know if it was looking for eggs or not. I came in the house for lunch one day shortly after she completed her nest and when I went back out, the nest was down on the ground and the adult birds were gone. I had seen a squirrel close by and I'm pretty sure that is what happened to it.

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