Order: Passeriformes Family: Turdidae Genus: Ixoreus Species: Ixoreus naevius


Male Varied Thrush in The Evergreen State College campus forest. December 2014. Photograph by Allison Swan.


By Minette Layne from Seattle, Washington (YardbirdUploaded by Snowmanradio) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons>

The Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius) is a striking passerine that inhabits dense coniferous forests in Northwestern North America.  Within in the damp darkness of old-growth forests, their eerie whistle sings out in a long single tone, penetrating the shadowy depths of the understory.  It is often difficult to find these birds within the dense trees; this cryptic bird is primarily seen while foraging along edges of forests or in roads.   In the family Turdidae, along with the American Robin and other thrushes, the Varied Thrush is about the same size as a Robin with a more horizontal pose, and can often be seen foraging on the ground, much like its relative.

The Varied Thrush is a beautiful bird, adorned with dramatic contrasting colors; burnt orange, brownish gray, bluish gray, and black.  They have orange underparts, throat, supercilium, and orange banding on the wings.  They also have a dark band across the breast and a dark eye stripe.  Males have a distinct black breast band and supercilium; their upperparts and rectrices are deep bluish gray (Pyle 1997).  Females can be identified by their pale indistinct breast band, along with upperparts and rectrices that are brownish-gray (Pyle 1997).  Juveniles observed during the same summer they fledge will have mottling on the breast and no breast band.  That fall after molt, the young birds will look much like the adults of either sex, including a breast band, but a duller appearance overall (Pyle 1997).

The Varied Thrush song is a long, bell-like whistle that fades away from the listener.  During the breeding season, individual males will sing every few seconds, varying the frequency and amplitude of each song.  These complex song sequences may serve to reduce responses from other males (Whitney 1981).  During winter males may sing a short, abbreviated version of their whistle, however this is uncommon to hear (Swan, personal observation).  They also make very soft “took took” calls that were observed while birds were perched high in trees (Swan, personal observation).   Several call notes have been described that accompany agnostic displays (Martin 1970).


Male Varied Thrush at The Evergreen State College. December 2014. Photograph by Allison Swan.


Food Habits

Population Trends and Conservation Issues
Literature Cited
About the Authors

Updated and revised by Allison Swan in Fall 2014.