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A photo of a Grey-cheeked Thrush (Catharus minimus)
Grey-cheeked Thrush

Grey-cheeked Thrush

Catharus minimus

The Grey-cheeked Thrush, Catharus minimus, is a medium-sized member of the thrush family, Turdidae. It measures approximately 15–17 cm in length, with a wingspan of 32-34 cm, and weighs between 26 and 30 grams. This bird is characterized by its grayish face, a subtle pale eyering, and a drab gray-brown upper side. Its underwing pattern is a distinctive white-dark-white, a trait shared with its Catharus cousins. The flanks are extensively dusky, and the area between the eye and beak is grayish, with a grayish-white stripe extending from the beak over the eye.

Identification Tips

To distinguish the Grey-cheeked Thrush from its close relative, Bicknell's Thrush, note its slightly larger size and different song. The two species were once considered conspecific but are now recognized as separate due to subtle differences in size, vocalizations, and genetics.

Habitat

The Grey-cheeked Thrush favors low coniferous woods, including young regenerating forests, open canopy old growth forests with dense undergrowth, and stunted spruce and fir near the treeline. During the breeding season, they inhabit northern boreal forests, extending north of the treeline into low Arctic willow and alder beds.

Distribution

This long-distance migrant breeds across the northern boreal forests from Newfoundland to Alaska and across the Bering Sea to Eastern Siberia. It winters in the Amazon basin, undertaking a remarkable migration that includes crossing the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

Behaviour

The Grey-cheeked Thrush is a secretive bird, especially during the breeding season. Its territories are well-spaced, and nesting pairs are rarely found in high densities. The species is more often heard than seen, especially during nocturnal migration when its flight call can be detected.

Song & Calls

The song of the Grey-cheeked Thrush is a complex series of burry flute-like notes, often ending in a downward inflection. Its flight call is a high, penetrating, nasal "queer," and during nocturnal migration, a "whe-eer" note can be heard.

Breeding

Breeding pairs exhibit secretive behavior, with well-spaced territories. Nests are built on the ground or in low shrubs, using dried grasses and mud. Females lay an average of 4 eggs, which are greenish-blue with light brown dots. Both parents care for the young, which fledge 11 to 13 days after hatching.

Similar Species

The Grey-cheeked Thrush is nearly identical to Bicknell's Thrush, with the most reliable differentiation being their vocalizations and slight size difference.

Diet and Feeding

The diet consists mainly of insects, arachnids, and various fruits and berries. They also consume crayfish, sow bugs, and earthworms. Their berry-eating habits play a role in seed dispersal.

Conservation status

The Grey-cheeked Thrush is currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, indicating that it is not at immediate risk of widespread decline.

Grey-cheeked Thrush Sounds



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