Wood Thrushes Prepare To Nest

Wood thrush, May 2020 (photo by Steve Gosser)

One of the joys of birding in Schenley Park this month has been the sight and sound of wood thrushes (Hylocichla mustelina). They arrived in force on 29 April and sorted out their territories in less than a week.

On a sunset walk on 4 May I heard seven of them singing, equally spaced along the Panther Hollow watershed. The other birds fell silent at dusk but the wood thrushes sang even more beautifully than during the day.

Among them is a wood thrush with a unique down-note that makes his song recognizable as an individual. Listen for it in my recording at 14 and 26 seconds.

Wood thrush at dusk, Schenley Park, 4 May 2020 (recording by Kate St. John)

Yesterday I paused in his territory and watched him foraging with his mate among the fallen logs and leaves. He was quick to warn when he saw dog walkers approaching (“WAP WAP”). The dogs are worthy of alarm but not us humans. He may change his mind about us when his lady is on eggs.

Soon the pair will build a nest in a period of 3-6 days. I haven’t seen them carrying nesting material yet, but they may have delayed construction while they wait for warmer weather and fully developed leaves.

Two to three days after the nest is complete she will lay 3-4 eggs, one per day, and hatch the clutch about 12 days later.

If all goes well I may see their fledglings in mid June.

(photo by Steve Gosser, recording by Kate St. John)

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