Catharus minimus aliciae

Status:  Uncommon regular spring migrant east, rare east-central, rare casual west-central and west. Rare casual fall migrant statewide.

Gray-cheeked Thrush range

Documentation:  Specimen: UNSM ZM11018, 11 May 1910 South Bend, Cass Co.

Taxonomy:  Two subspecies are recognized (Pyle 1997): aliciae, breeding from Alaska to northern Alberta and Labrador, and minimus, breeding in Newfoundland and northeast Quebec. Nebraska birds are aliciae.

Spring:  Apr 29, 29, 30 <<<>>> May 23, 23, 24

Earlier dates are 13 Apr 2008 Otoe Co, and 27 Apr 2017 Cass Co.

Later dates are 26 May 2020 Merrick Co, 26 May 2020 Wayne Co, and 5 Jun (Jorgensen 2012).

Migration is in May.

Although there are several reports of Gray-cheeked Thrush in the heavily-birded Colorado Front Range (,  we consider most of the 35+ Panhandle reports inconclusive. According to eBird (, there are only two Panhandle records: one banded at Cedar Point Biological Station, Keith Co 15 May 1997 and one photographed near Potter, Cheyenne Co 21 May 2020.

Spring 2015 saw numerous reports, involving a total of some 26 individuals, west to Hamilton Co, where one was found 14 May. There were an amazing 40+ reports of at least 50 individuals in 2016, including counts of 10-11 at Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co 13-14 May, and about 48 reports of different individuals in 2020, including one in the Panhandle.

This species is said to migrate later in spring than any other Catharus thrush except Bicknell’s Thrush (Whitaker et al 2020), although Nebraska data do not support this.

  • High counts:  55 in Sarpy Co 11 May 1996 (including 20 at Fontenelle Forest and 15 at Cedar Island), 10-11 at Fontenelle Forest 13-14 May 2016, and 6 in Seward Co 21 May 2003.

FallThere are about 37 reports, most undocumented. Reports with supporting information are:  25 Aug 1934 Lincoln Co (Tout 1947), 2 Sep 2017 Butler Co, 3 Sep 1974 Dawes Co (Rosche 1982), 8 Sep 2020 Lancaster Co, 9 Sep 2016 Lancaster Co, 13 Sep 2013 Lake Ogallala, Keith Co, 25 Sep 2007 Douglas Co, 10 Oct 2014 Sarpy Co, and 14 Oct 1938 Lincoln Co (Tout 1947).

Migration occurs in Sep.

This species is far less numerous in fall, despite its wider distribution at that time. A possible explanation for this may be inferred from a study on Swainson’s Thrush by Ruegg and Smith (2002), which, due to an artifact of late Pleistocene glaciations, evolved an elliptical migration pattern that largely avoids the central USA in fall (see Swainson’s Thrush account). Ruegg and Smith (2002) suggested that other Catharus thrushes, including Hermit and Gray-cheeked, may have evolved the same pattern.


UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum


Photograph (top) of a Gray-cheeked Thrush at Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co 9 May 2009 by Phil Swanson.

Literature Cited

Jorgensen, J.G. 2012.  Birds of the Rainwater Basin, Nebraska.  Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Pyle, P. 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds. Part I, Columbidae to Ploceidae. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, California, USA.

Rosche, R.C. 1982. Birds of northwestern Nebraska and southwestern South Dakota, an annotated checklist. Cottonwood Press, Crawford, Nebraska, USA.

Ruegg, K.C., and T.B. Smith. 2002. Not as the crow flies: A historical explanation for circuitous migration in Swainson’s thrush (Catharus ustulatus). The Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 269: 1375–1381.

Tout, W. 1947. Lincoln County birds. Published by the author, North Platte, Nebraska, USA.

Whitaker, D.M., I G. Warkentin, J.P.B. McDermott, P.E. Lowther, C.C. Rimmer, B. Kessel, S.L. Johnson, and W.G. Ellison. 2020. Gray-cheeked Thrush (Catharus minimus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen.  2021.  Gray-cheeked Thrush (Catharus minimus). In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 28 Jan 2021