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Species Guide
A photo of a Sooty Thrush (Turdus nigrescens)
Sooty Thrush

Sooty Thrush

Turdus nigrescens

The Sooty Thrush, known scientifically as Turdus nigrescens, is a robust bird endemic to the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama. It is a member of the Turdidae family, which it shares with other thrushes. The adult male is a striking brownish-black with black wings and tail, and a distinctive black area between the orange bill and the eye. The legs and bare eye ring are a vivid orange, and the iris is a pale grey. Females are similar but tend to be browner and somewhat paler, with yellow-orange bare parts. Juveniles can be identified by their resemblance to the adult female, but with buff or orange streaks on the head and upperparts, and dark spotting on the underparts.

Identification Tips

When identifying the Sooty Thrush, look for its average length of 24–25.5 cm and an average weight of 96 grams. The male's brownish-black plumage, black wings and tail, and the black area between the orange bill and eye are key characteristics. The orange legs and eye ring, along with the pale grey iris, are also distinctive. Females and juveniles are paler, with the juveniles displaying streaks and spotting.


This species thrives in open areas and at the edge of oak forests, typically at altitudes above 2200 meters.


The Sooty Thrush is found exclusively in the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama.


The Sooty Thrush exhibits behaviors similar to other thrushes, such as the American Robin. It forages on the ground, either alone or in pairs, moving in a series of hops and dashes with frequent pauses. It is known to turn over leaf litter in search of insects and spiders.

Song & calls

During the breeding season, the Sooty Thrush's song is a melodious and gurgling series of "chuweek chuweek seechrrzit seechrrzit seechrrzit seechrrzit tseeur tseeur tseeur tseeur." Its call is a grating "grrrrkk."


The Sooty Thrush constructs a substantial grass-lined cup nest in a tree, usually 2–8 meters above the ground. The female lays two unmarked greenish-blue eggs between March and May.

Similar Species

Within its range, the Sooty Thrush may be confused with the Mountain Thrush, which is uniformly brown with dark bare parts, or the Clay-colored Robin, which is much paler with a yellow bill.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Sooty Thrush consists of insects, spiders, and small fruits. It has a particular fondness for the fruits of the Ericaceae and Solanum families.

Conservation status

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

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Sooty Thrushes on Birda

A map showing the sighting location
James M
03 Mar 2024 - 4:45pm
Costa Rica

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