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New Jersey Endangered and Threatened Species Field Guide
Species Group: Bird
State: Special Concern
A medium-sized thrush, about 7-8 inches long (smaller than a robin). It is a dull gray-brown with a buff white belly which has brown spots. It can be distinguished from the closely related Swainson’s thrush by its grayish cheeks and less conspicuous eye ring. Both sexes look alike.
DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT
The gray-cheeked thrush breeds in the far north, from Alaska in the west to Newfoundland, Canada in the east. It has also been known to breed in portions of eastern Siberia. Its winter range is within the northwestern portion of South America, from Columbia and Venezuela in the north to Peru in the south. It is a migrant through the eastern half of the U.S., including New Jersey. Amongst thrushes in the U.S., this species makes the longest migration and it is one of the longest-distance songbird migrants.
During the breeding season, this species prefers coniferous forest as well as willow and alder thickets near water. During migration, they may also occupy deciduous forest, forest borders, open woodlands, and scrub/shrub habitat.
The gray-cheeked thrush feeds primarily on small invertebrates such as insects, spiders, and earthworms. It will also feeds on berries and other fruits. It feeds primarily on the ground.
The gray-cheeked thrush does not breed in New Jersey. It is observed within the state as a migrant during Spring and Fall, typically before mid-May or after mid-August, and not during winter.
Within its breeding range in the far north, it usually builds its nest fairly low, near the ground, in a small tree or shrub. The nest, which is built by the female, is a compact, firm cup consisting mostly of grasses and mud.
There is usually only one brood per breeding season and 3-5 eggs are laid. Incubation is by the female only and lasts 12-14 days. The young are cared for by both parents and leave the nest at about 11-13 days after hatching.
CURRENT STATUS, THREATS, AND CONSERVATION
Little is known about habitat use of gray-cheeked thrushes in New Jersey as they are a shy, relatively secretive species often mistaken for other closely-related thrushes. This species is listed in New Jersey as a Species of Special Concern (not yet endangered or threatened but possibly on its way) during its non-breeding season. It is possible that, due to their breeding range in Alaska and the northern portion of Canada, they may be at risk due to global climate change as their habitat and/or prey may not be able to adapt to changing climatic conditions.
Text written by Michael J. Davenport in 2011.
Species: C. minimus
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