Robin….or not? Spot the Difference!

I love to see a robin in the winter…good for you, hardy bird! No worms to eat, but you must find enough seeds and maybe some insects tucked under leaves or shrubs. And you remind me that spring is on its way, even if I have to count months yet.

So what is this other bird that resembles a robin? Similar size, orange/red breast, black on the head and back. But wait….

Robin in summer

…it has a distinct black breast-band, and orange eye-stripe. Wing-marks and an orange throat. Not a robin. It’s a Varied Thrush, more closely related to bluebirds than to robins. It prefers forest habitat, especially in the Rockies. Its drawn-out whistles have an eerie quality in the spring woods. We might see a few in the neighborhood in winter. But this year, hundreds of Varied thrush have turned up in the Shuswap, luckily for the birders out on the Christmas Bird Count on December 18.

Varied Thrush in winter

Read this account (with great photo) by local ornithologist John Woods:

Column: Winter unfolding as banner year in Shuswap for elusive species of bird – Salmon Arm Observer (

The Varied Thrush is a delight to see perched in the burning bush among the berries and leftover leaves—all with that glowing orangey shade—making them look like Christmas tree ornaments.

Why they’re here in such numbers this year is a mystery. There could be many factors, most likely to do with food and shelter needs, the main reasons birds move around in winter. Just this morning, we saw a flock of about 50 of these social birds along the lake shore, as they took flight from their roosts in a pine tree….and one lonely robin standing on the frozen mudflats. Any worms there?


One response to “Robin….or not? Spot the Difference!

  1. That’s really interesting! Here

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