No sooner had the recent blanket of snow melted from our Littleton, Colorado, farm than a Swainson's thrush appeared, foraging in a flower bed. Common migrants along the Front Range urban corridor, especially in spring, this spotted thrush breeds in coniferous forests of southern Alaska, Canada and the mountain ranges of the Western U.S.
Distinguished from other spotted thrushes by its dull, brown-olive back, its faded breast spots and its buff-colored eye ring, Swainson's thrush also delivers a unique, rising song. Like its close cousins, it feeds primarily on the ground, consuming both insects and berries; unlike the others, it also feeds in the lower branches of trees and, at times, engages in fly-catching behavior. Nests are placed in the understory shrubs of coniferous woodlands and 3 to 4 eggs are generally produced. Come fall, Swainson's thrushes head to Mexico, Central America or South America for the northern winter.
Our visitor last evening was a welcome sight indeed, the first summer songbird to grace our property during this cold, snowy spring; hopefully, his presence was a sign that the late incursions of winter have finally come to an end.