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New Jersey Endangered and Threatened Species Field Guide

Image of An adult wood thrush singing.Zoom+ An adult wood thrush singing. © Blaine Rothauser

Wood thrush

Hylocichla mustelina

Species Group: Bird

Conservation Status

State: Special Concern (Breeding)



The wood thrush is a mid-sized migratory songbird about 8 inches in length. Similar in body shape to the American robin but smaller, it has a rusty-colored crown, rusty-brown back, and large, round black spots on a white belly. It is plumper than the other brown thrushes and both sexes look alike.

Image of Range of the wood thrush in New Jersey.Zoom+ Range of the wood thrush in New Jersey.


The breeding range of the wood thrush covers the eastern half of the U.S. as well as southeastern Canada. It winters in Central America and eastern Mexico.

Breeding habitat is deciduous or mixed forests where there is a dense tree canopy and a well-developed understory, especially near or within wetlands. During the winter, their habitat consists of various types of forests and woodlands.


The wood thrush eats insects and other invertebrates (such as snails) and small fruits. They usually forage on or near the ground.


The breeding season for the wood thrush in New Jersey is between early May and early to mid-August. Nest site selection and construction is completed by the female alone. Nests look similar to robin nests (a firm, compact cup of grasses, bark, moss, paper, leaves, rootlets, and mud), but are smaller. The nest is usually constructed within a small tree or shrub about 10 feet above the ground, but occasionally as high as 50 feet.

Between 3 to 4 eggs are usually laid. Incubation is by the female alone and lasts between 12 to 14 days. The young are tended to by both parents and will leave the nest at 12 to 13 days old. There are usually two broods produced per year and breeding pairs usually remain together for the second nesting.


The wood thrush is considered to be common throughout much of the eastern U.S. However, the species has undergone population declines in some portions of its range, most likely due to habitat loss and forest fragmentation within its breeding range. This species prefers large areas of forest with intact, closed tree canopies. Forest fragmentation leaves nests vulnerable to predation as well as nest parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater). Tropical deforestation may also pose a threat within their winter range.

The wood thrush is listed as a Species of Special Concern in New Jersey (not yet endangered or threatened but possibly on its way). Preservation of large areas of intact habitat benefits this species since such areas enable them to breed and raise offspring more successfully.

Text written by Michael J. Davenport in 2011.

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
       Class: Aves
          Order: Passeriformes
             Family: Turdidae
                Genus: Hylocichla
                   Species: H. mustelina

Find Related Info: Migratory songbirds, Special concern

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