Return of Bird of the Week: Great Thrush


WC has exhausted his collection of even marginally presentable photos of Trogons, so we will move on to another family of birds, the Thrushes, the taxonomic family Turdidae. There are some 174 species of Thrushes spread across 18 genera. Some will be immediately familiar. Some will surprise you. WC has photographed only a small fraction of this large, widespread family of birds. But we will start with the largest member of that family, the Great Thrush. Spoiler alert: it’s good, but not really great.

Great Thrush Male, Ecuador

The Great Thrush can weigh as much as 175 grams; for comparison, a big American Robin might weigh 77 grams. Some subspecies run to 33 centimeters in length; the America Robin is about 25 centimeters. The dark gray body, orange bill and legs are pretty distinctive; in the males, the orange eye ring is definitive.

This is a montane species, rarely found below 2,000 meters, along both slopes of the Andes from Venezuela to Bolivia. It readily adapts to human-disturbed areas; this photo was taken in a garden in suburban Quito, Ecuador. There are seven subspecies, mostly split across the spine of the Andes. This is probably the quindio subspecies, based on locale and color.

Great Thrush Female, Peru, fresh from a bath

This species prefers the edges of humid, montane forest and scrub, hedgerows and patches of woodland. It quickly colonizes recently disturbed areas like clearcut, and is found in many cities and towns within its range. It has a generalist diet, with perhaps more emphasis on fruits and flower petals than other thrushes. It has been documented hunting vertebrates when feeding nestlings. Prey can include other nestling birds.

Like so many Neotropic bird species, the Great Thrush is poorly studied. It is believed to nest multiple times a year. Based on a small sample size, there are two eggs. Incubation and nestling intervals are unknown. During the non-breeding season, it nests communally with as many as 40 birds in a roost. During breeding season, it is aggressively territorial. It is believed to be at least socially monogamous. There is no population data and precious little breeding bird survey information.

Because of this species’ extensive range and tolerance, even success in human-disturbed areas, IUCN rates this as species of Least Concern.

For more bird photographs, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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