Saturday, September 11, 2010

Swainson's Thrush

I wrote about this thrush in my blog of 9 May 2010.  To those comments, let me add the following (inspired by banding several Swainson's Thrushes during this first week of September).

This species was first described by Thomas Nuttall in 1840 from specimens taken in Washington State. Nuttall (1786-1859) was an English botanist and zoologist who explored much the United States and Canada.  Among his many publications was the first inexpensive, popular guide to North American birds.  The English ornithologist William Swainson (1789-1855) published prodigiously and studied birds from around the world.  Nuttall was probably especially recognizing Swainson's work on Canadian forest birds when he commemorated Swainson with this thrush's common name. Note, however, that the scientific name for this bird is Catharus ustulatus.

The common name for Swainson's Thrush used to be Olive-backed Thrush.  The problem is that many western birds have russet backs. Olive-backed and russet-backed birds differ in breeding habitat, vocalizations, and wintering grounds.   Nevertheless, to the best of my knowledge, the splitting of these birds into distinct species has not been proposed.

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