Birds: Varied Thrush
Wham! We heard the thud and went to investigate the “plink” on our living room window. There on the lawn lay a still warm thrush. It was so pretty, but its neck was broken. Picking up the limp bird, I felt its fading heart and slightly moving beak in my hands. We had had the window washer clean the outsides of our windows the week before and the glass must have been invisible to the bird.
Looking around the yard, there appeared another thrush in the bushes, hopping carefully from spot to spot, tilting its head to the side, pecking in the dirt and moving on. Over the next few weeks we saw a few more Varied Thrush as they came to our back yard, front yard, and side gardens to look for worms, grubs, and other insects that fueled them for the journey. And quite a journey it is.
Although we can see the Varied Thrush year-round in Portland, Oregon, it is also a migrant forager. The thrush will often winter in California and summer in the Yukon and Alaska. The black mask on the orange belly and throat make me think of the Baltimore Oriole, but it looks more like a small robin to my eye. The black breast band also looks a bit like the Western Meadowlark, but it is less like a chevron and more like a collar. The dark eyes are often hidden in the birds mask, making it seem mysterious also.
The Varied Thrush, whenever I spot one, is always a surprise. Growing up on the East Coast, we never saw this thrush. The seasonal Robins, with their prominent rust-colored breasts, were a welcomed harbinger of spring in the mid-Atlantic states. Smaller than it’s Robin cousin, the Varied Thrush is a prodigious eater, plumping it up for long flights north in the spring and south in the winter for foraging through the countryside. It is a welcomed visitor any time.
Not as melodic as either the Wood Thrush or the Hermit Thrush, the Varied Thrush has a beautiful call that is a joy to hear in the garden.