Wood Thrush Song & Sounds: What Do Thrushes Sound Like

wood thrush song
Thrushes are small brown songbirds common throughout North and Central America. The song of the Wood Thrush has a flute-like quality, along with non-harmonic trill sounds. Hermit Thrushes’ songs sound musical, imitating the natural patterns of music. 

The Wood Thrush sings like a flute with non-harmonic trills at the of his song. The Hermit Thrush sings in musical patterns using many different notes. Hermit Thrushes also add trills at the end of their songs.

What Are Thrushes?

Thrushes are songbirds that belong to the Turdidae family, commonly known as nightingale-thrushes. The Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) and the Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus) are common in much of North America. Thrushes are long-distance migratory birds flying between Canada and Central America. Ornithologists recognize 12 subspecies of Thrushes in North America.

The Hermit Thrush has pale underparts and spots on the throat and breast. These spots fade as they get closer to the belly. They have rich brown heads and brown backs and wings. They are relatives of the American Robin.

The Wood Thrush has white underparts with clear blackish-brown spots. It has a cinnamon-colored crown, nape, and upper back. It also has white rings around the eye. Female Thrushes look similar to males of the same subspecies.

The population of Thrushes has declined by 50% since the mid-1900s. This bird species is threatened by climate change and deforestation. Thrushes are also threatened by Cowbirds who lay their eggs in Thrush nests. Thrushes then hatch and raise Cowbirds rather than their own young.

What Is The Wood Thrushes’ Birdsong Like?

Male Wood Thrushes sing songs with three parts:

  1. A very quiet sequence of 2-6 short, low-pitched notes like ‘bup bup bup.’
    • These sounds can only be heard within a close range.
  2. Louder sounds like ‘ee-oh-lay’
  3. A fast trill of non-harmonic notes—can vocalize two notes at once

The song of the Wood Thrush sounds slightly different for each bird, but each birdsong contains the characteristics listed above. The melodic song of the Wood Thrush has been named one of the most beautiful North American bird songs. Female Wood Thrushes have not been documented to sing.

Wood Thrushes can sing duets with themselves in the third phase of their song. This ability gives their songs a flute-like quality. Males have a y-shaped syrinx, or voicebox, and can sing one note on each branch. The two notes create a haunting harmony.

wood thrush call
Wood Thrush

What Is The Wood Thrushes’ Most Common Sound?

Wood Thrushes are known best for their second song phase: the ‘ee-oh-lay’. These sounds are loud and able to project throughout the deciduous forests of the eastern United States during the summer. Wood Thrushes sing in their breeding grounds throughout Manitoba and Nova Scotia.

Their range extends through the Atlantic Coast to the Missouri River and into the Great Plains. They make use of forest fragments but also breed deep into the woods. Wood Thrushes also make calls. These bird sounds are used as a form of alarm.

Wood Thrushes make staccato calls that sound like ‘bup bup bup’ that signals distress. If there is a reason to signal significant danger, the call will rise in pitch and grow more agitated. Predators like hawks and owls can capture Wood Thrushes.

What Does The Hermit Thrush Song Sound Like?

The Hermit Thrushes sing a series of clear notes, each on a different pitch. They sing flute-like songs that can sound ethereal. They begin with a ‘pip’ introductory note and may then add a trill or a tremolo. Hermit Thrushes sound musical, and their songs have attracted the attention of musicians because their songs follow typical musical patterns.

Female Hermit Thrushes make sounds in and around their nests. While rearranging their eggs, they make a ‘quit quit’ sound. They also make a calling sound like ‘byob’ in and around their nests. Males greet each other with a ‘pweet pweet’ call.

Hermit Thrushes spend summertime foraging on the forest floor in the northern US and Canada. They search through leaf litter for bugs to eat. This songbird has a large range in North America, nesting and breeding in much of the US and Canada. The Veery Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush, Gray-cheeked Thrush, and Bocknell’s Thrush are also part of the genus Catharus and live in North America.

hermit thrush song
Hermit Thrush

Do Wood Thrushes Migrate?

Wood Thrushes migrate long distances. In the spring, they fly from Central America to the northeastern US and Canada for breeding. Wood Thrushes fly right across the Gulf of Mexico and arrive in the US at the beginning of April.

Males migrate a few days before females to set up territories for breeding. During August and September, Wood Thrushes migrate back to Central America for the winter.

Wood Thrushes are monogamous and work together to raise two broods during breeding season. Each brood contains 2-4 chicks. Females build nests low in trees, often at a fork in the branches. Wood Thrushes sometimes displace Hermit Thrushes’ breeding grounds due to the breaking up of larger forested areas or forest fragmentation.


Sarah enjoys feeding hummingbirds in the warmer months, and a range of finches, woodpeckers, and cardinals in the cooler months. She enjoys researching and learning more about birds, gardening, and preserving food. She is learning how to maximize her small city backyard and is amazed at all the possibilities. She lives in southwestern Indiana with her family.

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