Thrushes are common, medium-sized birds that eat worms, insects, and fruit. They live in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, swamps, suburbs, and parks. Most thrushes build nests of mud and vegetation on the ground or in the crotches of trees or shrubs; bluebirds nest in holes in trees and posts or in nest boxes. This group forages primarily on the ground and in low vegetation by probing and gleaning. Some thrushes are neotropical migrants while others reside year-round in North America. Thrushes range in size from the eastern and western bluebirds (18 cm from bill tip to tail tip) to the American robin (25 cm). Male and female plumages are similar in most thrushes, although in some species, such as the bluebirds, the males are more brightly colored.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage
Specimens with Sequences:1226
Specimens with Barcodes:1205
Species With Barcodes:105
The bluebirds are a group of medium-sized, mostly insectivorous or omnivorous birds in the genus Sialia of the thrush family (Turdidae). Bluebirds are one of the few thrush genera in the Americas. They have blue, or blue and rose beige, plumage. Female birds are less brightly colored than males, although color patterns are similar and there is no noticeable difference in size between the two sexes.
- Eastern bluebird, Sialia sialis
- Western bluebird, Sialia mexicana
- Mountain bluebird, Sialia currucoides
Bluebirds are territorial and prefer open grassland with scattered trees. This is similar to the behaviour of many species of woodpecker. Bluebirds can typically produce between two and four broods during the spring and summer (March through August in the Northeastern United States). Males identify potential nest sites and try to attract prospective female mates to those nesting sites with special behaviors that include singing and flapping wings, and then placing some material in a nesting box or cavity. If the female accepts the male and the nesting site, she alone builds the nest and incubates the eggs.
Predators of young bluebirds in the nests can include snakes, cats and raccoons. Non-native and native bird species competing with bluebirds for nesting locations include the common starling, American crow, and house sparrow, which take over the nesting sites of bluebirds, killing young and smashing eggs and probably killing adult bluebirds.
Bluebirds are attracted to platform bird feeders, filled with grubs of the darkling beetle, sold by many online bird product wholesalers as mealworms. Bluebirds will also eat raisins soaked in water. In addition, in winter bluebirds use backyard heated birdbaths.
By the 1970s, bluebird numbers had declined by estimates ranging to 70% due to unsuccessful competition with house sparrows and starlings, both introduced species, for nesting cavities, coupled with a decline in habitat. However, in late 2005 Cornell University's Laboratory of Ornithology reported bluebird sightings across the southern U.S. as part of its yearly Backyard Bird Count, a strong indication of the bluebird's return to the region. This upsurge can largely be attributed to a movement of volunteers establishing and maintaining bluebird trails.
In the garden
Of all the birds a gardener could choose to attract, the bluebird is the quintessential helpful garden bird. Gardeners go to extreme lengths to attract and keep them in the garden for their advantageous properties. Bluebirds are voracious insect consumers, quickly ridding a garden of insect pests.
As a symbol in songs
Songwriters have adopted the bluebird as a symbol of happiness and cheer. Examples are Jan Peerce's signature song, "Bluebird of Happiness", "Over the Rainbow" ("Somewhere over the Rainbow/Bluebirds fly"), "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" ("I'm Always Chasing Rainbows/Waiting to find a little bluebird in vain"), and "The White Cliffs of Dover" ("There'll be bluebirds over/The White Cliffs of Dover"). The last song, written in 1941, alludes to the hoped for end of World War II. It employs poetic license: there are no bluebirds in Europe. Songwriters have also portrayed the bluebirds as a muse, as in the song, "Voices In The Sky", from the British Rock group, The Moody Blues, from their album, "In Search of The Lost Chord". <"The Best of The Moody Blues"; information accompanying the CD>
- Gowaty, Patricia Adair (1984). "House Sparrows Kill Eastern Bluebirds". Journal of Field Ornithology 55 (3): 378–380. JSTOR 4512922.
- "The Self-Sufficient Gardener Episode 109 Bluebirds". Theselfsufficientgardener.com. 2011-07-20. Retrieved 2012-06-16.
Thrushes are plump, soft-plumaged, small to medium-sized birds, inhabiting wooded areas, and often feed on the ground. The smallest thrush may be the forest rock thrush, at 21 g (0.74 oz) and 14.5 cm (5.7 in). However, the shortwings, which have ambiguous alliances with both thrushes and Old World flycatchers, can be even smaller. The lesser shortwing averages 12 cm (4.7 in). The largest thrush is the blue whistling thrush, at 178 g (6.3 oz) and 33 cm (13 in). The great thrush is similar in length, but less heavily built. Most species are grey or brown in colour, often with speckled underparts.
They are insectivorous, but most species also eat worms, land snails, and fruit. Many species are permanently resident in warm climates, while others migrate to higher latitudes during summer, often over considerable distances.
Turdidae species spread the seeds of plants, contributing to the dispersal of many species and the recovery of ecosystems.
Plants have limited seed dispersal mobility away from the parent plant and consequently rely upon a variety of dispersal vectors to transport their propagules, including both abiotic and biotic vectors. Seeds can be dispersed away from the parent plant individually or collectively, as well as dispersed in both space and time.
Many bats and birds rely heavily on fruits for their diet, including birds in the families Cotingidae, Columbidae, Trogonidae, Turdidae, and Rhamphastidae. While eating fruit, these animals swallow seeds and then later regurgitate them or pass them in their faeces. Such ornithochory has been a major mechanism of seed dispersal across ocean barriers.
Other seeds may stick to the feet or feathers of birds, and in this way may travel long distances. Seeds of grasses, spores of algae, and the eggs of molluscs and other invertebrates commonly establish in remote areas after long journeys of this sort. The Turdidae have a great ecological importance because some populations migrate long distances and disperse the seeds of endangered plant species at new sites, helping to eliminate inbreeding and increasing the genetic diversity of local flora.
The taxonomic treatment of this large family has varied significantly in recent years. Traditionally, the Turdidae included the small Old World species, like the nightingale and European robin in the subfamily Saxicolinae, but most authorities now place this group in the Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae.
This article follows the Handbook of the Birds of the World with edits from Clement and Hathaway, Thrushes (2000), and retains the large thrushes in Turdidae. Recent biochemical studies place certain traditional thrush genera (Monticola, Pseudocossyphus, Myiophonus, Brachypteryx, and Alethe) in the Muscicapidae. Conversely, the Asian saxicoline genera Grandala and Cochoa belong here among the thrushes.
- Genus Turdus: true thrushes (some 65 species, one recently extinct)
- Genus Platycichla: (two species) – part of a South American group within Turdus
- Genus Nesocichla: Tristan thrush or starchy – part of a South American group within Turdus
- Genus Cichlherminia: forest thrush – genus paraphyletic with Turdus
- Genus Psophocichla: groundscraper thrush
- Genus Zoothera: Asian thrushes (some 15 species, one recently extinct)
- Genus Geokichla: (21 species)
- Genus Catharus: typical American thrushes and nightingale-thrushes (12 species)
- Genus Hylocichla: wood thrush
- Genus Ridgwayia: Aztec thrush – related to Hylocichla
- Genus Ixoreus: varied thrush – related to other New World genera
- Genus Cataponera: Sulawesi thrush
- Genus Grandala: grandala
- Genus Sialia: bluebirds (three species)
- Genus Cichlopsis: rufous-brown solitaire – related to Catharus
- Genus Entomodestes: solitaires (2 species) – related to Catharus
- Genus Myadestes: solitaires (10–11 living species, two or three recently extinct, includes formerly recognized genus Phaeornis)
- Genus Neocossyphus: rufous thrushes (four species) – related to Myadestes
- Genus Cochoa: cochoas (four species)
- Genus Chlamydochaera: fruithunter
- Genus Alethe: alethes (two species)
- Genus Pseudalethe: pseudalethes (four species)
Now usually considered a distinct family distantly related to Picathartes:
- Genus Chaetops: rock-jumpers (two species)
- Thrushes by Peter Clement. Princeton University Press (2001), ISBN 978-0-691-08852-5.
- Perrins, C. (1991). Forshaw, Joseph, ed. Encyclopaedia of Animals: Birds. London: Merehurst Press. pp. 186–187. ISBN 1-85391-186-0.
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (December 2009)|
For other uses, see Solitaire (disambiguation)
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