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Gray-cheeked Thrush

Catharus minimus

Length: 7 to 7.75 Wingspan: 12 to 13 inches Seasonality: Migrant
ID Keys: Grayish-brown upperparts, grayish-white underparts, spotted chest, indistinct grayish eye-ring, grayish neck and face.

Gray-cheeked Thrush - Catharus minimusThe Gray-cheeked Thrush breeds further north than it's similar close thrush relatives (Swainson's Thrush, Veery, Hermit Thrush), even utilizing thickets on the tundra for nesting.  They are extremely shy and difficult to approach, a habit that makes them doubly difficult to view when combined with their preferred habitat of dense forests.  Some of the species migrate all the way from South America, to Alaska, and then across the Bering Strait to Siberian nesting grounds.

Habitat: Found in northern spruce forests during the summer breeding season.  In the northern part of their range, they will utilize stunted spruce forests up to the treeline, and will use willow and alder thickets on the tundra.  They are found in tropical forests during the winter.

Diet:  Insects and berries make up the majority of the diet.  Will also feed on spiders and other small invertebrates.

Behavior: Usually feeds by hopping along the ground in search of insects.  They will also perch in trees and bushes as they feed on fruits and berries.  Males often chase females through the forest in prelude to breeding.

Breeding: Non-breeder in South Dakota

Song: Thin whistling reminiscent of an oboe, with middle phrases that rise and first and last phrases that fall. 

Migration: Summers throughout northern Canada and Alaska, as well as in Siberia. Winters in South America. 

Interactive eBird map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Gray-cheeked Thrush sightings

Similar Species: Swainson's Thrush, Bicknell's Thrush

Conservation Status: There are indications that birds at the southern end of its breeding range are in decline.

Further Information: 1) Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Gray-cheeked Thrush

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Gray-cheeked Thrush"

3) Gray-cheeked Thrush

Photo Information: Photo taken in Aberdeen by Dan Tallman.


Click on the map below for a higher-resoulution view
Gray-cheeked Thrush - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon spring migrant, rare fall migrant.

Additional Gray-cheeked Thrush Photos (coming soon!)