Birds – Olive-backed Thrush

(Turdus ustulatus swainsonii) Thrush family


Length—7 to 7.50 inches. About one-fourth smaller than the robin.

Male and Female-Upper parts olive-brown. Whole throat and breast yellow-buff, shading to ashy on sides and to white underneath. Buff ring around eye. Dark streaks on sides of throat (none on centre), and larger, more spot-like marks on breast.

Range—North America to Rockies ; a few stragglers on Pacific slope. Northward to arctic countries.

Migrations—April. October. Summer resident in Canada. Chiefly a migrant in United States.

Mr. Parkhurst tells of finding this “the commonest bird in the Park (Central Park, New York), not even excepting the robin,” during the last week of May on a certain year ; but usually, it must be owned, we have to be on the lookout to find it, or it will pass unnoticed in the great companies of more conspicuous birds travelling at the same time. White-throated sparrows often keep it company on the long journeys northward, and they may frequently be seen together, hopping sociably about the garden, the thrush calling out a rather harsh note—puk ! puk !—quite different from the liquid, mellow calls of the other thrushes, to resent either the sparrows’ bad manners or the inquisitiveness of a human disturber of its peace. But this gregarious habit and neighborly visit end even before acquaintance fairly begins, and the thrushes are off for their nesting grounds in the pine woods of New England or Labrador if they are travelling up the east coast, or to Alaska, British Columbia, or Manitoba if west of the Mississippi. There they stay all summer, often travelling south-ward with the sparrows in the autumn, as in the spring.

Why they should prefer coniferous trees, unless to utilize the needles for a nest, is not understood. Low trees and bushes are favorite building sites with them as with others of the family, though these thrushes disdain a mud lining to their nests. Those who have heard the olive-backed thrush singing an even-song to its brooding mate compare it with the veery’s, but it has a break in it and is less simple and pleasing than the latter’s.