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Black-headed Nightingale Thrush

Catharus mexicanus

Length: 6.5 inches Wingspan: 11 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys: Gray underparts, olive-brown upperparts, gray head with dark upper half, orange eyering, bill, and legs.

Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush - Catharus mexicanusThe Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush is a songbird of Central America and parts of eastern Mexico.  Despite breeding 200 km away in northern Mexico, the species was unknown in the United States until 2004, when a lone bird was identified in Hidalgo County, Texas. They are primarily found in mountainous forest areas, although they will move to lowlands outside of the breeding season.

Habitat: Found in tropical or sub-tropical forests.

Diet: Feeds on insects and other small invertebrates, as well as fruits and berries.

Behavior: Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush are rather shy, preferring to stay in thick undergrowth and bushes while they forage.  The best looks at the species typically occur when the male is singing on a higher, more visible perch. They can also sometimes be seen foraging along roadsides during the early morning hours.

Nesting: The nest is a cup of grasses, mosses, leaves, and other material, placed in a low shrub or occasionally on the ground.  The female lays between 2 and 4 eggs.

Song: The song is a weak flute-like warbling

Migration: Considered a permanent resident throughout its normal range. However, some may move to lower elevations for the winter in parts of their range.

Interactive eBird map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush sightings

Similar Species: Obvious identification marks if seen well, not likely to be confused with another species.

Conservation Status: Populations appear to be in decline.  However, they still are found in a number of locations and are common enough in parts of their range that overall populations are not considered threatened.  The IUCN lists the Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) Cornell's NeoTropical Birds - Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush

2) BirdLife International - Black-headed Nightingale Thrush

3) Sora - First Record of a Black-headed Nightingale Thrush in the United States

Photo Information: Photo taken by Michael Woodruff - July 9th, 2008 - Costa Rica - Photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License


Click below for a higher-resolution map
Black-headed Nightingale-Thrush - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Non-resident in South Dakota

Additional Black-headed Nightingale Thrush Photos (coming soon!!)