Older generations of Americans probably remember the beautiful “ee-oh-lay” song of the Wood Thrush as a fixture of summertime. Historically, the species was common, and the many woodlands that dotted the landscape could be assured of the singing birds.
Today, the song is heard much less frequently. Wood Thrush population surveys from 1966 to 2009 show a continent-wide decline of almost two percent each year. This suggests an overall population decrease of some 50 percent.
Like its close relatives, the Hermit and Swainson's Thrushes, this spot-breasted thrush nests and feeds near and on the forest floor. As a result, it's frequently in danger of predation, especially by an increasing number of free-roaming and feral cats.
Predators like pet cats, as well as naturally occurring predators like jays, crows, and raccoons, more easily find the birds and their nests today. The reason: habitat fragmentation that opens the way into the forest.
Brown-headed Cowbirds also take advantage of fragmented forests, finding the nests and laying their eggs in them, to the detriment of the thrushes' young.
The problems of habitat loss and fragmentation go on and on. Plants that don't occur naturally in a given forest gain ground and replace the native species that provide food for the birds. Deer, which prefer forest edges, multiply in fragmented forests and degrade the bird's breeding habitat.
Wood Thrush migrate south to Central America. There, the loss of lowland tropical forests has reduced wintering habitat as well.
Like the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, this thrush is known to use shade-grown coffee farms, which preserve some native trees and bird habitat. One easy way to help the Wood Thrush is to buy only Bird-Friendly coffee grown on certified farms.
A 2014 Watch List species, the Wood Thrush is a priority for our International Program. We work with partners throughout Latin America to create protected bird reserves, with El Jaguar in Nicaragua and many other ABC-supported reserves known to support wintering Wood Thrush, along with Golden-winged Warbler and many other species.