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Varied Thrush

A visit from a Varied Thrush can brighten up a drab winter day. This striking bird may remind you of its cousin, the American Robin, only dressed in orange instead of red.

Photograph by Steve Berliner

In the winter months we host some cold weather lovers who consider Oregon and Washington warm climates!  The Varied Thrush is one of our winter visitors.  Nicknamed the “winter” or “Alaskan” robin, its shape and size does closely resemble the American Robin.  The male Varied Thrush is a strikingly pretty bird:  its upper parts are slate blue, and its underparts are orange with a black band across its breast.  Its wings are gray-blue with two orange bars, and its face has a wide black patch with an orange eyebrow strip.  The female Varied Thrush is a duller version of the male, with khaki brown in place of the male’s blue.

Hearing the call of a Varied Thrush is a treat.  Males often sing from the top of a tree, emitting a beautiful, buzzy, whistled tone on a single pitch.  Like its relatives (robins, thrushes and bluebirds) the Varied Thrush is known as an excellent vocalist.

This shy, secretive bird will hide quietly in upper tree branches if frightened from your lawn or low feeder.  When the coast is clear, the Varied Thrush will readily come to a platform or large hopper feeder offering black oil sunflower seeds or hulled sunflower chips, as well as Northwest Mix or Pacific No Waste.  You may also see it hop about on your lawn to forage much as robins do for snails, worms and insects, or energetically scratch among shrubs and leaf debris for acorns, seeds and insects. 

Wintering in Portland and along the coast of Alaska and British Columbia, many of these birds migrate to more northern climates in warmer months, breeding throughout Alaska.

Diet:  At backyard feeding stations, dines on sunflower chips, millet and cracked corn.  Also eats fruits, berries, acorns, insects and spiders.

Habitat:  Breeds in wet coniferous or mixed forests.  Prefers mature forests with a closed canopy, but found also in second growth forests.  Winters in forests, parks and gardens.