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 26, 26, 27 <<<>>> summer

An earlier date is 21 Apr 2021

It occurs regularly in migration in the east but is less than annual elsewhere (Rosche 1994, Jorgensen 2012). There is one documented Panhandle report, a recording from Lisco, Garden Co 12 Jun 2018 (eBird.org). Documented reports in the central are 16 May 2003 Lincoln Co, 16 May 2018 Antelope Co, 17 May 2018 Boone Co, 18-19 May 2012 Sherman Co, 22 May 2019 Loup Co, 23 May 2006 Cherry Co, and 27 May 2016 Thomas Co.

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

  • High counts:  34 at Indian Cave SP, Nemaha and Richardson Cos 11 May 2021, 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. 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.

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. Swenk found a Wood Thrush on a nest with three eggs in Long Pine Canyon in 1902 (Ducey 1983) and 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. Recent reports are few, however, but one was at Hutton Sanctuary, Rock Co 13 Jun 2019.

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

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

Fall:  summer <<<>>> Sep 26, 26, 26

Later dates are 28 Sep 2019 Sarpy Co, 29 Sep 2012 Nemaha Co, 2 Oct 2015 Dodge Co, 3 Oct 2014 Sarpy Co, 4 Oct 2009 Dodge Co, 8 Oct 2020 Lancaster Co, 21 Oct 2012 (photo) Boone Co, and 22 Oct 2016 Sarpy Co.

Migrants away from the breeding range are less-than-annual in occurrence; the only reports since 1990 are: 15 Sep 1997 NNF Bessey, and 5 Oct 2019 Adams Co.

Departure is complete by late Sep.

We consider most reports after mid-Oct 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.  2021.  Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina). In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 10 Jun 2021