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  • Writer's pictureSandy Obodzinski

The Wood Thrush's Return

photo credit: Bob Gress,

"This is the only bird whose note affects me like music. It lifts and exhilarates me. It is inspiring. It changes all hours to an eternal morning." ~ Henry David Thoreau

I heard it last night. The 'ee-oh-lay', the trill, the flute-like call from inside the branches dripping with the fresh unfurl of Spring leaves. The Wood Thrushes have returned, crossing the Gulf of Mexico in one night! Lone travelers in our new quiet world.

Listen for a minute...

I took that video, hoping the neighbors down the way didn't find me too odd standing at the street staring into their side lot of trees. Surely, if they knew why, they would do the same.

I have never seen a Wood Thrush in the nearly five years I've lived here. It's their normal behavior to isolate in the woods and forage through the leaf litter for bugs and berries. They are natural hunker-ers. Perhaps they can teach us something about embracing our current situation.

They are a little smaller than American Robins with similar rich brown backs, but their white chests are covered in brown speckles and eyes lined with distinctive white circles.

Rarely seen, their song is unmistakable.

Here is another, even more beautiful example from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

With forest habitats becoming more and more fragmented and acid rain negatively impacting their food sources, the Wood Thrush population has decreased nearly 50% since the 1960's. They are very unlikely to be lured to a feeder, or I would try. But the leaf litter and bugs in my woods are ample.

If past years are a hopeful indication, their population will swell as summer approaches, filling acres, dusks, and dawns with their song.


"This is the only bird whose note affects me like music, affects the flow and tenor of my thought, my fancy and imagination. It lifts and exhilarates me. It is inspiring. It is a medicative draught to my soul. It is an elixir to my eyes and a fountain of youth to all my senses. It changes all hours to an eternal morning…I long for wildness, a nature which I cannot put my foot through, woods where the wood thrush forever sings, where the hours are early morning ones, and there is dew on the grass, and the day is forever unproved, where I might have a fertile unknown for a soil about me." ~ Complete passage by Henry David Thoreau from "The Writings of Henry David Thoreau: Journal"


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