Return of Bird of the Week: Veery

Veery, High Island, Texas

WC doesn’t have very good photos of Veery, another of the Catharus thrushes. In fact, WC has only seen the species three times: twice on High Island, Texas, immediately after the birds had flown non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico, and once, at considerable distance, in the community of Sea-Tac, Washington. And WC has never heard it sing.

Veery have an unusual migration pattern. The breeding territory extends from western Washington to the Martime provinces in Canada, but not at all in the American southwest or, except along the Appalachian Mountains, in the southern U.S. They have an extremely long migration, crossing the Gulf of Mexico and moving south to the southern half of the Amazon Basin. Not content with that, halfway through the non-breeding season they migrate again, west and southwest to far western Brazil. Of course, that makes their spring migration even longer. The reason for that migration pattern is “not well understood.”

Veery, Sea-Tac, Washington

This species favors marshy, wet forests, and preferentially disturbed forest. There is some evidence that its range expansion follow the spread of invasive shrub into disturbed areas. There, this species consumes about 60% insects, 40% fruit, feeding primarily on insects as breeders and on fruit in late summer and fall. Most, but not all, of the foraging occurs on the ground.

Veery were long thought to be strictly monogamous. However, it turns out that their breeding and parenting behavior is as unusual as their migration. Veery engage in multiple partnerings. Those include polygynandry (recently discovered in 2016). Veery also use multiple modes of parental care: multiple male feeders at nests, males attending multiple nests each with a different female, two males that co-attended the same two broods, and monogamy. According to Birds of the World, there is some evidence that this plasticity in mating and parenting systems is likely dependent on the degree of multi-generational kinship present in population.

Most aspects of Veery breeding are well studied. Veery are ground or near-ground nests. For normal sized broods of 4 eggs, it takes about 48–50 days from start of nest-building until fledgling independence: 6 days for building a nest, 4 days for laying eggs, 12 days more incubating until eggs hatch, another 12 days for feeding the nestlings, concluding with about 2 weeks of feeding the fledglings outside nest. A little over a third of eggs laid survive to fledge.

Overall, populations of Veery are in slow decline the reasons are not well understood, but research is focusing on habitat changes in their winter habitat. Presently, the decline is in the range of 1.0% to 1.7% per year. With a population estimated at 12 million birds, it’s not an immediate concern, but it is worrisome. IUCN classifies Veery as a species of Least Concern.

For more bird photographs, please visit WC’s bird photo site, Frozen Feather Images

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