National Geographic : 1914 May
VARIED THRUSH (Ixoreus nsevius). Length, about 10 inches. Its large size and dark slate-colored upper parts, black breast collar, orange brown stripe over eye and orange brown under parts mark this thrush apart from all others. Range: Breeds on the Pacific coast from Yakutat Bay, Alaska, south to Humboldt County, California; winters from southern Alaska to northern Cali fornia. This, one of our largest and finest thrushes, is limited to the west coast, where it finds a con genial summer home in the depths of the coniferous forests, the mystery and loneliness of which seem reflected in its nature. Although the varied thrush somewhat suggests our robin, it is much shyer, and its habits and notes are very different, makingit more nearly akin to the small olive thrushes. It nests in the conifers, and its eggs, unlike those of the robin, are heavily blotched with brown. Its song, a single long-drawn note, has been greatly praised, and seems entirely in harmony with the bird's surroundings, being weird and inspiring. In winter the varied thrush abandons the forest and with it many of the habits of the recluse, and visits more open districts, including ravines and even gardens, where it becomes quite familiar. This thrush, like its smaller brethren, feeds chiefly on the ground, and its food is largely of vegetable nature, but includes a fai, proportion of insects, with millepeds and snails. Unless its habits are greatly modified by the encroachment of civiliza tion on its domain it is not likely to be much of a factor in agricultural affairs, but it will continue to make itself useful by destroying the insect enemies of forest trees. VEERY (Hylocichla fuscescens fuscescens). Length, about 74 inches. To be known from the other small thrushes by its uniform cinnamon brown upper parts and its faint brown breast markings. Range: Breeds from northern Michigan, central Ontario and Newfoundland south to northern Illinois, northern Indiana, northern Ohio and New Jersey; and in the Alleghenies south to North Carolina and northern Georgia; winters in South America. Far more retiring than either the wood thrush or the hermit, the veery must be sought in the seclusion of the swamp or swampy woodland, far from the recesses of which he rarely ventures. Much of his time he spends on the ground, for on or near it he finds his chosen fare. Though trim in form and clad in a garb of modest color as befits his nature, the veery appeals less to the bird lover's eye than to his ear. Though some of his relatives are classed among the most famous of American songsters, the veery may fairly claim place in the front rank, and his wild, mysterious and all-pervading notes touch certain chords in the human breast which respond to the song of no other of our birds. The food of the veery does not differ essentially from that of the other small thrushes and includes a great variety of small wild fruits and insects. As it rarely visits the orchard or farm its insect-eating habits have little direct bearing on the farmer's interest, although indirectly the bird contributes its share to the beneficial work of staying the super abundant tide of insect life. It does, however, eat many weevils, and among them the notorious plum curculio. WOOD THRUSH (Hylocichla mustelina). Length, about 84 inches. To be distinguished among its fellows by its more bulky form,, by the golden brown head, bright cinnamon upper parts, and the large round black spots beneath, sharply contrasting with the pure white. Range: Breeds from southern South Dakota, central Minnesota, central Wisconsin, southern Ontario and southern New Hampshire south to east ern Texas, Louisiana and northern Florida; winters from southern Mexico to Central America. The wood thrush finds its way to our hearts and sympathies more through its voice than its presence, and whoever has failed to hear its clear flute-like tones rising from the woodland depths as the mists of evening gather has missed a rich treat. It is no doubt true that the Hermit Thrush is a more finished performer, but that chorister reserves his music chiefly for the northern wilds while our wood thrush favors more southern lands. Moreover, the hermit is a true recluse and must be sought in the deeper forest, its chosen home, while its more south ern cousin lives in comparatively open woodland and does not disdain to take up its summer residence in parks and gardens. The music of the one is for the favored few, while the song of the other is almost as well known as that of the brown thrasher. Like most of the tribe, the wood thrush obtains its food chiefly from the ground, where it spends much of its time searching among the leaves. In sects with a small percentage of fruit, chiefly wild varieties, compose its fare. Among the insects are cutworms and other caterpillars, ants, grasshoppers and beetles, including the Colorado potato beetle. Thus the bird deserves a high place in our esteem for both esthetic and economic reasons. BUSH-TIT (Psaltriparus minimus and sub-species). Length, from 4 to 41 inches. Range: Pacific coast from southern British Columbia to the Cape Region of Lower California, and eastward to the interior of Oregon and Cali fornia; nests generally throughout its range. This pigmy among birds has many of the char acteristic habits of the chickadee family, of which it is the smallest member. Extremely sociable, bush-tits move about in large flocks, occasionally in company with other birds, generally without. One moment you are alone, the next moment the trees and bushes are full of these diminutive little busy bodies that scan you with their curious bead-like eyes as they hurry on in quest of food, keeping up the while a constant calling and twittering. Their pendant nests, often attached to oak trees, suggest the well-known structure of our hang-bird or Balti more oriole, and are excellent specimens of bird architecture. The few western states favored by the presence of this bird are to be congratulated, as more than half its animal food consists of insects and spiders, nearly all of which are harmful. Among the insects are many tree bugs, Iemiiptera, which contain our most dreaded insect pests, such as the black olive scale and other scales equally destructive. The bush-tit is also a persistent foe of the codling moth in all its stages. (See Farmers' Bul. 54, p. 44; also Bul. 30, pp.