Birds – Wilson’s Thrush

(Turdus fuscescens)


Length—7 to 7.5 inches. About one-fourth smaller than the robin.

Male and Female—Uniform olive-brown, with a tawny cast above. Centre of the throat white, with cream-buff on sides of throat and upper part of breast, which is lightly spotted with wedge-shaped, brown points. Underneath white, or with a faint grayish tinge.

Range—United States, westward to plains. Migrations—May. October. Summer resident.

To many of us the veery, as they call the Wilson’s thrush in New England, is merely a voice, a sylvan mystery, reflecting the sweetness and wildness of the forest, a vocal ” will-o’-the-wisp ” that, after enticing us deeper and deeper into the woods, where we sink into the spongy moss of its damp retreats and become entangled in the wild grape-vines twined about the saplings and underbrush, still sings to us from unapproachable tangles. Plainly, if we want to see the bird, we must let it seek us out on the fallen log where we have sunk exhausted in the chase.

Presently a brown bird scuds through the fern. It is a thrush, you guess in a minute, from its slender, graceful body. At first you notice no speckles on its breast, but as it comes nearer, obscure arrow-heads are visible—not heavy, heart-shaped spots such as plentifully speckle the larger wood thrush or the smaller hermit. It is the smallest of the three commoner thrushes, and it lacks the ring about the eye that both the others have. Shy and elusive, it slips away again in a most unfriendly fashion, and is lost in the wet tangle before you have become acquainted. You determine, however, before you leave the log, to cultivate the acquaintance of this bird the next spring, when, before it mates and retreats to the forest, it comes boldly into the gardens and scratches about in the dry leaves on the ground for the lurking insects beneath. Miss Florence Merriam tells of having drawn a number of veeries about her by imitating their call-note, which is a whistled wheew, whoit, very easy to counterfeit when once heard. ” Taweel-ah, tweel-ah, twil-ah, twil-ah I” Professor Ridgeway interprets their song, that descends in a succession of trills without break or pause ; but no words can possibly convey an idea of the quality of the music. The veery, that never claims an audience, sings at night also, and its weird, sweet strains floating through the woods at dusk, thrill one like the mysterious voice of a disembodied spirit.

Whittier mentions the veery in ” The Playmate ” :

“And here in spring the veeries sing The song of long ago.”