Hey guys, welcome back. Today, we head back to the thrush family and the drabbest of the bunch, the gray-cheeked thrush. Similar in look and behavior to a number of species we’ve already talked about including Swainson’s thrush, hermit thrush, and veery, the gray-cheeked lacks any of the warm brown that its cousins have. Even the drabbest of the aforementioned thrushes, the Swainson’s, still has some buffy coloration on its face, particularly its eye ring. The gray-cheeked lacks that buff color. These thrushes are all typically somewhat secretive ground dwellers in the forests, but the interesting thing about the gray-cheeked is that most of the information about them actually refers to another look-alike that we’ve yet to discuss (and as of this writing is not on my life list), the Bicknell’s thrush. See, the Bicknell’s and gray-cheeked were at one time considered the same species, and most of the observations, it turns out, were of the Bicknell’s, despite the gray-cheeked having a larger range overall. So, when they were split, that left the gray-cheeked short changed!
I’ve seen gray-cheeked thrushes both here in Ohio (see the pic at the top of the post) and in Central Park in New York. They definitely do require a good look to be sure (and sound helps immensely, especially on the east coast where they overlap with the Bicknell’s.) They do not breed in the US, but in northern Canada and Alaska. Like most thrushes, they forage on the ground eating grubs and insects, and are typically not as common as the Swainson’s or hermit thrushes. A Bicknell’s thrush did show up in Central Park once while I worked there, but I didn’t see it. Their range is pretty much east of the Appalachians so unless I head east during May, my chances of seeing one are slim. But here in Ohio, gray-cheekeds show up fairly regularly, so at least I got that going for me. Just beware when IDing any of these thrushes. They love the forest understory, which often doesn’t have the best lighting to see the coloration well. As if we needed one more wrench thrown into thrush identification! Next up, North America’s largest woodpecker! See you then!