A few years ago I had a Varied Thrush visit my backyard feeders. He was such a beautiful bird and I was lucky in that he spent about 3 weeks here gorging on the sunflower seeds that I threw on the ground.
The Varied Thrush, Ixoreus naevius, which is in the Thrush family along with Robins and Bluebirds, occurs mainly west of the Rocky Mountains. Their breeding range extends from Alaska east to the western parts of the Northwest Territories and south to Idaho. They winter along the west coast to southern California. In the summer the Varied Thrush is found breeding in the dark coniferous forest where their song emanates from the woods. However, they are very hard to find, as they stay well hidden in the dense foliage.
Follow this link to hear their song: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/audio/Varied_Thrush.html
it’s rather unimpressive compared to the other Thrushes.
The Varied Thrush is a known vagrant in that a few always show up at feeders in the Midwest during the winter. In fact, they have been placed on the Minnesota “regular species” list by the Minnesota Ornithologists Union. In Minnesota we have 312 species of birds that are considered regulars. And to be included on the regular list, there must be records of that bird in at least nine of the past ten years.
The Varied Thrush is about the same size as an American Robin. A name that was used for the Varied Thrush in the past was “Alaskan Robin”. The male has a bright orange breast with a blue-gray back, a black v-shaped breastband and orange wingbars. The female is a duller version of the male. They look somewhat like an Oriole, but they are much bigger and bulkier.
Out west they were considered somewhat of a pest in the past as they really like Apples. And Washington State and other western areas are well-known for their commercial orchards. Likewise our familiar Robin is attracted to Apple trees, and the Varied Thrush and Robin winter together along the west coast showing up in city parks and suburbs.
When I first moved up here, I had heard of a Varied Thrush in Orr. I thought at the time what a wonderful bird that would be to visit my backyard. And then a few years later, a male Varied Thrush showed up. I had a special bond with that bird. I was especially impressed with his robust personality; he would chase away the aggressive Blue Jays! There aren’t too many birds that can do that.
Last year I heard of a Varied Thrush in Angora and there was one that stayed all winter in Duluth. The photo below was taken by Laura Erickson of the bird that was in Duluth. A beautiful male:
photo by Laura Erickson