A Gray-Cheeked Thrush

Earlier this week, as I watched a mixed flock of chickadees, titmice and nuthatches attack our backyard feeder, a spotted thrush dropped into our large magnolia.  A bit late for migrants, I initially thought it was a hermit thrush, a species that winters in Missouri.  Yet, it had no eye rings, no rust coloration on its tail or back and did not flick its tail; I eventually concluded that it was a gray-cheeked thrush.

Summer residents of the New England mountains, the Canadian Maritimes and northern woodlands of Canada and Alaska, these long-distance migrants winter in the tropical forests of northern South America; en route, they pass through the eastern half of the U.S. but are not common in most areas.  Indeed, this was my first sighting of a gray-cheeked thrush in Columbia.

Since they feed on insects and berries, the thrush was not interested in the sunflower seed handouts but was clearly attracted to our yard by the activity of our common avian residents.  Such is the case with many uncommon visitors throughout the colder months and this is a major reason why veteran birders put out feeders.  While our wild neighbors could survive without our charity, the feeders attract most of  our local species and thereby get the attention of rare species that pass through the region.