Hylocichla mustelina

Status:  Uncommon spring and fall migrant east, rare casual central and west. Uncommon breeder east.

Documentation:  Specimen: UNSM ZM11015, 10 May 1911 Lincoln, Lancaster Co.

Taxonomy:  No subspecies are currently recognized (Pyle 1997).

Spring:  Apr 20,23,23 <<<>>> May 24,27,27 (specimen UNSM ZM9459)

Departure dates above are from outside the breeding range. There are earlier reports without details 14 Apr 1972 Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co and 16 Apr 1990 Lancaster Co.

It occurs regularly in migration west to Dodge and Lancaster Cos, but in areas of central Nebraska where it does not breed it is a casual migrant (Rosche 1994, Jorgensen 2012). There are few Panhandle reports, including some into Jun: 10 May 1980 Garden Co, 12 May 1958 Sheridan Co, 17 May 1957 Sheridan Co, 17-19 May 1986 Sioux Co, 18 May 1980 Sioux Co, 2 Jun 1980 Garden Co, 7 Jun 2003 Crescent Lake NWR, Garden Co, 7-8 Jun 1985 Dawes Co, and 8-9 Jun 1985 Sioux Co.

We consider reports of this species prior to mid-Apr misidentified Hermit Thrushes.

  • High counts:  17 at Indian Cave SP, Nemaha and Richardson Cos 14 May 2006, 16 at Fontenelle Forest 12 May 2018, and 15 at Indian Cave SP, Nemaha and Richardson Cos 14 May 2003.

Summer: Currently the breeding range of this species appears to be restricted mainly to the Missouri River Valley counties northwestward to the Long Pine Canyon area, Brown Co, where Swenk found a Wood Thrush on a nest with three eggs in the canyon in 1902 (Ducey 1983). Brogie and Mossman (1983) considered it a “probable nester,” in the Niobrara Valley Preserve, where three singing males were found in Brown Co Jun-Jul 1982. Short (1961) found Wood Thrush to be common in Holt Co along the Niobrara River in 1955. Youngworth (1955) found it a regular summer resident in northeast Cherry Co. These records indicate that Wood Thrush has probably nested in this area for some time, and possibly further west, as Short (1965) located a singing male along the Niobrara River about 20 miles west-southwest of Valentine in Cherry Co during the breeding season in 1965. There are additional summer records for Brown Co for most of the years 1964-72 and one was at Hutton Sanctuary, Rock Co 13 Jun 2019. Two were on Schindler Creek, Knox Co Jun-Jul 2008 and 2009.

Rosche (1982) considered it an accidental summer visitor in the northwest, citing one record only, a singing male in cottonwood forest on the edge of Box Butte Res, Dawes Co 19 Jun 1975. Ducey (1988) cited a statement in Bruner et al (1904) that breeding occurred in Sioux Co. No date or specific record was given; this was probably a late migrant.

There is a historical report of breeding in Antelope Co (Ducey 1988) but no reports since at least 1956 in summer for the upper Elkhorn River Valley; it breeds regularly west to Madison Co, including westernmost reports there 4 Aug 2000 Oak Valley WMA, two at Yellowbanks WMA 25 Jun 2012 and one there 25 Jul 2000.

Summer reports from the Loup River drainage are few: 16-18 Jun 1983 Boone Co, a nest in Nance Co in the period 1984-89 (Mollhoff 2001), Short (1961) found four singing males on territory at NNF Bessey, Thomas Co Jun 1955, Glandon (1956) listed one record for Logan Co prior to 1955, although no details were given, a report from McPherson Co 16 Jun 1984, and in Thomas Co its status was listed as “uncertain, formerly a nesting species” (Bray 1994), but no details were provided.

In the Platte River Valley, it occurs each summer at Hormel Park, Fremont; one was on a nest there 9 May 2006 (Mollhoff 2006), and at George Syas WMA, Platte Co, where there are reports 13 Jun and 31 Jul 2000. The only report further west in the Platte River Valley since the 1970s is of a recorded singer near Lisco, Garden Co 12 Jun 2018 (eBird.org). An early report of nesting was an apparently successful nest in a Hastings, Adams Co yard in 1934 (Jones 1934). Tout found a nest in the York area around 1900 (Tout 1902, Jorgensen 2012). Tout (1935) implied breeding in Lincoln Co; by 1947 (Tout 1947) he described Wood Thrush as a “regular summer resident” in Lincoln Co, present “every year in the big woods along the Platte River east of [North Platte]”. Presumably these “big woods” were the Stenger Grove, described by Tout as located along the south side of the Platte River about 10 miles southeast of North Platte. Short (1961) found several territorial males west to Sutherland, Lincoln Co in 1956 and 1957, and Brown et al (1996) noted that a female with a brood patch was banded at Lake Ogallala, Keith Co 16 Jun. Short (1961) found individuals in the breeding season at various locations between Adams and Lincoln Cos in 1955-57, and there are a few summer reports for Adams Co 1964-76.

The only indication that it might breed in summer in the drainages of the Blue Rivers or the Republican River Valley was Ludlow’s (1935) statement that the species was a “common summer resident” in Webster Co; no dates later than 20 May were listed, however. The only other reports suggestive of summering birds are of singles in Jefferson Co 18 May and 23 Jun 2016, at Red Cloud, Webster Co 27 Jun 2011, and in Gosper Co 2 Jul 2009. It is unusual as far west as Lancaster Co, where it was reported at Wilderness Park, Lincoln, 17 Jun 1995; there is one report for Seward Co, of two birds there 13 Aug 2015.  Additional reports for Gage Co 15 May 1971 and 8 May 2010 and Webster Co 9 Jun 2009, are probably of migrants

Since about 1950, this species has experienced significant range reduction by habitat loss in eastern Nebraska and apparently westward along the Platte River Valley, first by removal of the dominant American Elm by Dutch Elm Disease in the 1960s and 1970s, and more recently by accelerated removal of large timber stands along the Platte and Elkhorn rivers for agriculture, housing developments, and sand and gravel operations.

  • Breeding phenology:
    Nest building: 8 May
    Eggs: 12 May-23 Jun
    Nestlings: 3 Jun- 30 Jul
  • Fledglings: 12 Jun-11 Aug

Fall:  summer <<<>>> Oct 6,7,10

Departure is complete by early Oct, although there is a later date of one photographed in Boone Co 21 Oct 2012; one was at Fontenelle Forest 22 Oct 2016. Migrants away from the breeding range are less-than-annual in occurrence, with these reports in the central and west: 24 Aug 1966 Custer Co, 2 Sep 1983 McPherson Co, 14 Sep 1986 Sioux Co, 15 Sep 1982 Dawes Co (Williams 1983), 15 Sep 1997 NNF Bessey, 20-23 Sep 1974 Scotts Bluff, 21 Sep 1963 Adams Co, late Sep-early Oct 1947 Sioux Co (Rosche 1982), 5 Oct 2019 Adams Co, and 7 Oct 1983 McPherson Co.

We consider reports after early Nov to be misidentified Hermit Thrushes.


NNF: Nebraska National Forest
NWR: National Wildlife Refuge
SP: State Park
UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum
WMA: Wildlife Management Area (State)


Photograph (top) of a Wood Thrush at Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co 3 Jun 2006 by Phil Swanson.

Literature Cited

Bray, T.E., B.K. Padelford, and W.R. Silcock. 1986. The birds of Nebraska: A critically evaluated list. Published by the authors, Bellevue, Nebraska, USA.

Brogie, M.A., and M.J. Mossman. 1983. Spring and summer birds of the Niobrara Valley Preserve, Nebraska: An annotated checklist. NBR 51: 44-51.

Brown, C.R., M.B. Brown, P.A. Johnsgard, J. Kren, and W.C. Scharf. 1996. Birds of the Cedar Point Biological Station area, Keith and Garden Counties, Nebraska: Seasonal occurrence and breeding data. Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences 23: 91-108.

Bruner, L., R.H. Wolcott, and M.H. Swenk. 1904. A preliminary review of the birds of Nebraska, with synopses. Klopp and Bartlett, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.

Ducey, J.E. 1983. Notes on the birds of the lower Niobrara River in 1902 as recorded by Myron H. Swenk. NBR 51: 37-44.

Ducey, J.E. 1988. Nebraska birds, breeding status and distribution. Simmons-Boardman Books, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.

Glandon, E.W. 1956. Birds that nest in the Stapleton area. NBR 24: 30.

Jones, A.H. 1934. Some notes on thrushes. NBR 2: 64.

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

Ludlow, C.S. 1935. A quarter-century of bird migration records at Red Cloud, Nebraska. NBR 3: 3-25.

Mollhoff, W.J. 2001. The Nebraska Breeding Bird Atlas 1984-1989. Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union Occasional Papers No. 7. Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Mollhoff, W.J. 2006. The 2006 Nebraska nest report. NBR 74: 142-147.

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.

Short, L.L., Jr. 1961. Notes on bird distribution in the central Plains. NBR 29: 2-22.

Short, L.L., Jr. 1965. Bird records from northern Nebraska during the breeding season. NBR 33: 2-5.

Tout, W. 1902. Ten years without a gun. Proceedings of Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union 3: 42-45.

Tout, W. 1935. The spread of the Wood Thrush to North Platte, Lincoln County. NBR 3: 28-29.

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

Williams, F. 1983. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 37: 196-199.

Youngworth, W. 1955. Some birds of the Quicourt Valley. NBR 23: 29-34.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen.  2020.  Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina). In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 29 Mar 2020