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Veery (Catharus fuscescens)
Distribution

Breeding: From southeastern British Columbia, central Alberta and Saskatchewan, southern Ontario, southern Quebec, southwestern Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia, south Veery range mapthrough the northeastern United States to northern New Jersey, Pennsylvania, northern Ohio, northern Indiana, northeastern Illinois, northeastern Iowa, and the northeastern corner of South Dakota. In the West, south to central Oregon, northeastern Nevada, northern Utah, and south-central Colorado. Also breeds at higher elevations in the Appalachian Mountains from western Maryland south to northern Georgia and southeastern Kentucky.

Winter: South America; true winter distribution poorly known, may be restricted to southwestern Brazil and possibly northern Bolivia.

Veery by James Coe from his Golden guide: Eastern Birds: A Guide to Field Identification of North American Species

Breeding habitat

Inhabits damp, deciduous forest and riparian habitats, generally younger stands and second-growth areas with an open canopy and dense understory. They are especially fond of hemlocks in the Appalachian regions, whereas western Veeries favor dense willows and alders near water. Habitat selection may depend on the presence of other thrush species in their breeding range. The Veery may breed in mixed conifer-hardwood forest in areas where it overlaps with the Swainson's Thrush or Wood Thrush.

Conservation status

The Veery is of moderate conservation importance, primarily because of its declining population trends in much of its range (30% decline overall since 1966) and its vulnerability as a long-distance migrant wintering in tropical forests of South America. Fortunately it is still a very common species in most of its Eastern range, where it also seems tolerant of some forest disturbance. In the West, this species is indicative of healthy riparian forests. Understanding how habitat requirements and sensitivity to fragmentation varies over its large range will be important for conserving future populations.

Description

Male: Uniform reddish-brown above with an indistinct eye ring, gray cheeks and flanks. Differs from the other thrushes by its redder back, buffy-brown or orangish tone to breast, and lighter spotting on throat and breast. The western form has a more olive back and slightly more spotting on breast; Newfoundland birds are also less reddish above with more heavy spotting below.

Female: Same as male.

Juvenile: Looks like the adult, but has feathers on the upperparts with buffy tips giving an overall spotted appearance. Wing coverts are edged with tawny-olive. Underparts are like adult, but tinged with tawny-olive with faint barring on breast and sides.

Vocalizations

Song: Consists of a slurred series of downward inflected notes. Each note gets progressively lower in pitch, creating the sensation of spiraling or cascading down the scale. Some songs may begin with a simple, non-inflected note and end with a rolling note. The song varies less than the songs of other forest thrushes, but has an ethereal quality that makes it unique.

Calls: The call notes of the Veery are generally lower-pitched than those of other thrushes. The most common call, which is used in a hostile situation, is a downward inflected vee-ur or veee-oo. They also have a jerk or njernt call.

Foraging strategy

Forages mostly on the ground by turning over leaves with bill. Sometimes searches for prey from a perch, such as a low branch in a shrub or tree or from a rock generally close to water. Swoops to the ground and grabs prey when sighted. Also, to a lesser extent, gleans or plucks fruit from the foliage. Young are fed insects.

Diet

Eats beetles, caterpillars, spiders, centipedes, snails, pill bugs, ants, wasps, and tupulid flies. In the fall and winter eats more fruit-spicebush, strawberries, juneberries, honeysuckle, blackberries, wild cherries, sumac, and blueberries.

Behavior and displays

  • Sings from a concealed perch in the lower canopy or understory, otherwise usually seen on the ground.
  • In conflict situations the bird holds its body in an erect posture, also may flick its wings and tail.
  • In high conflict situations, usually between two males fighting over a territory, the males will raise their bills and then snap them forward at one another. Males will also chase other intruding birds from their territories.

Courtship

  • The male pursues the female in flight around his territory, becoming less aggressive as the pair bond becomes stronger.
  • Female may sing a duet with the male as part of courtship. The entire process generally lasts 3-4 days.

Nesting

Nest site: On or just above the ground, often in a low shrub or brush pile. May be concealed in a grass tussock or under fallen limbs or a stump. Generally found in moist habitats.

Height: Usually on the ground, and generally not higher than 4 feet (1 meter) above the ground. Has been recorded nesting as high as 25 feet (7 meters) above the ground.Veery nest with four eggs

Nest: Nest built with twigs, grasses, and forb stems on a base of dried leaves. Lined with fine rootlets, bark strips, and more grasses. Nest is built by the female alone in 6-10 days.

Eggs: 3-5 (usually 4). Oval with a smooth shell, pale blue to greenish, rarely marked with brown. Very similar in appearance to the eggs of Hermit and Wood thrushes.

Incubation period: Incubation by the female alone, 10-14 days.

Nestling period: Young are altricial (born naked or with a small amount of down, eyes closed, unable to move or feed themselves). Cared for by both parents. Brooded by the female until they fledge. Young open their eyes at 5-7 days and leave the nest in 10-12 days. Parents swallow fecal sacs, may carry some away after the young reach 6 days old.

Fledgling period: In about 14 days the young can feed themselves on their own.

Broods: Usually one brood during the season, though two broods have been documented in some areas, such as New Hampshire.

Cowbird Parasitism: Extremely vulnerable to cowbird parasitism.

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