The spring brings a wave of migrants to our yards, gardens, and parks. The time period from mid-April through June can make or break a bird count. One group of these migratory visitors who can really help boost a bird count are the Thrushes.
The Thrushes have traveled from the south in search of food and mates in the north. Some of these birds will stop and nest in the Upper Midwest, while others will continue their journeys northwards.
The most common of these visitors is the state bird of Wisconsin and Michigan, the American Robin. This Thrush thrives in backyards looking for grubs and worms. They are considered the heralds of spring, and they are the Thrush we can all pretty much count on seeing.
This Gray Catbird dug around in our compost before paying the neighbors' bushes a visit.
Eastern Bluebirds are becoming an increasingly common Thrush after their numbers had dropped off. Efforts to install birdhouses and monitor them over time have helped bring back the Bluebird. Like most Thrushes, they'll need the right situation to come bounding into your yard. In their case, shelter is the right incentive. Bluebirds will look for houses where they have the appropriate surroundings to forage for food, where there aren't too many other Bluebirds around, and they may require protection from House Sparrows and Starlings. (See an earlier post about birdhouses)
This Swainson's Thrush spent a couple of rainy evenings foraging in the bushes.
Other Thrushes may visit your lawn looking for food especially during or immediately after transit. In the early part of spring, berries may be their best dietary option. Parts of Wisconsin are still seeing snow, which means insect foraging isn't exactly an option. Plants like Staghorn Sumac, Dogwood, Hawthorn, and American Holly have fruit which may persist over the winter and provide food for these birds. We have seen Hermit Thrushes, Gray Catbirds, and Swainson's Thrushes scoping out our compost as well.
A Hermit Thrush at the edge of the compost.(Note - He may be hard to see, he's right in the center.)
As the weather improves, expect that you may see these birds in your yard if an understory of relatively dense shrubs is available, and if there are other sources of fruit such as Serviceberry, Chokeberry, or Nannyberry. Come fall, they will make their exit, and the following spring the cycle and count will start again.