Birds of Smith-Gilbert Gardens
By Pat Pepper
On the morning of June 1st, I parked in the back parking lot of SGG in the spot in front of the lamp post, which is located just to the right of the large Princess Tree. As I got out of my car, I heard the song of a male Wood Thrush coming from the woods behind the lamp post. If you ask birders what their favorite bird song is, many will reply “the Wood Thrush.”
Hearing the song of a Wood Thrush is the beginning of summer for me. These birds winter in Central America and migrate to the eastern half of the U.S. in late spring and will spend the summer here. If I hear a Wood Thrush, and have the time, I will just sit down, close my eyes, put a contented smile on my face and be serenaded. My spirit begins to rise with the sweet, flute-like melodious notes.
I have heard many more Wood Thrushes than I have seen. Some field guides call these birds reclusive. They like to perch themselves around eye level or lower in deciduous woodlands. They feed on the ground, looking for insects among fallen leaves. Once, while I was sitting on my front porch, I was lucky enough to see a Wood Thrush feeding on the ground beneath a tree.
The Wood Thrush is a little smaller than a Robin. It is reddish brown on its back with a boldly spotted white chest and potbelly. It has a bold white eye ring and a fan-like marking under its eyes. It can be easily confused with a few other thrushes we see in Georgia. Most of the other thrushes are just migrating through our state in spring and fall except for the Hermit Thrush. While the Hermit Thrush and the Wood Thrush look very similar, they are not here at the same time. The Hermit Thrush winters here and moves on when the Wood Thrush arrives.
Note the snow in the picture of the Hermit Thrush. I usually always get at least one Hermit Thrush on my Audubon Christmas Count.
The Wood Thrush, while still numerous, is having problems. The parasitic Brown Cowbird lays its eggs in the Wood Thrush’s nest. The Cowbird hatchlings are more aggressive than those of the Wood Thrush, so the Wood Thrush parents end up raising Cowbirds instead of their own future American Singing Idols. Cowbirds grow up to be members of the Avian Mafia.
In addition to their Cowbird problem, Wood Thrushes are seeing their source of food diminish as acid rain kills off many of the invertebrates they feed on. I hope I go extinct before the Wood Thrushes. I can’t imagine living through a Georgia summer without my reason to sit down in the shade of a deciduous tree, close my eyes and open my ears to one of the most beautiful sounds on the earth.
Listen to a Wood Thrush: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Wood_Thrush/sounds