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A tawny-colored thrush with a mellifluous song that cascades through the deep woods on its breeding grounds in the U.S. and Canada, the Veery bears a scientific name that reflects the beauty of its song and coloration: Catharus, from the Greek katharos, means “pure,” referring possibly to the texture of the song, and fuscescens, from the Latin fuscus, means “dusky” (Choate 1985). It was first described in 1831 by ornithologist Alexander Wilson, who gave the species two names—Wilson’s Thrush and Tawny Thrush (Wilson and Bonaparte 1831).
This Neotropical migrant regularly crosses the Gulf of Mexico in spring and fall, breeding in early-successional, damp, deciduous forests, often near streamside thickets or swamps. Where its breeding range overlaps those of the Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) and Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus), the Veery generally chooses wetter, younger woodlands than these other thrushes do. It is primarily a ground forager, feeding mostly on insects when breeding and on fruit in late summer and fall. The Veery’s distinctive, ethereal song prevails at dusk, and this species can distinguish between the vocalizations of neighbors and strangers, reacting aggressively when the latter intrude on a territory.
Key studies have focused on the Veery’s song (Stein 1956, Dilger 1956a), its migratory behavior (Cochran et al. 1967, Cochran 1972, Suthers 1987-1988, Diehl and Larkin 1998), and how it and other spot-breasted thrushes partition habitat on their breeding grounds (Dilger 1956b, Bertin 1977, Noon 1981), but this species remains poorly studied in many regards, especially on its wintering grounds in South America. Recent studies have focused on nest site selection (Heckscher 2004), wintering distribution (Remsen 2001), and systematics and the evolution of migration in this and other Catharus thrushes (Outlaw 2003).