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Townsend’s Solitaire

A medium-sized songbird that belongs to the family Turdidae, which includes thrushes, known for its gray-brown plumage, white eye-ring, and beautiful, flute-like song.

A relative of bluebirds and other thrushes, the Townsend’s Solitaire sometimes wanders widely in winter, and vigorously defends a favored feeding site that is usually a juniper tree loaded with berries. Different populations of Townsend’s Solitaires can be migratory, nonmigratory, or make altitudinal movements.

As female Townsend’s Solitaires approach the time for egg laying, they may spend several hours a day in incubation posture on their nest even before they lay their eggs. Nest parasitism by the Brown-headed Cowbird is rare.

Townsend's Solitaire

Description of the Townsend’s Solitaire




The Townsend’s Solitaire is a slender thrush with a long tail. It is uniformly gray with a bold white eye ring and buffy patches in the wing.  In flight, it shows a bold buffy stripe in each wing.


Sexes similar.

Seasonal change in appearance



Juveniles are darker than adults and are heavily spotted with yellowish-buff.


Townsend’s Solitaires are found in coniferous forest, pinyon-juniper woodlands, and brushy areas with junipers.


Townsend’s Solitaires feed on insects and berries. In the winter, juniper berries can represent well over 90% of the diet.


Townsend’s Solitaires occasionally flycatch for insects, a behavior unique among thrushes. They also pick berries from trees.


Townsend’s Solitaires occur throughout much of the western U.S. and Canada. The North American population appears stable overall.

Fun Facts

Living up to their name, Townsend’s Solitaires are usually seen singly, with each bird defending a wintering area containing trees with berries.

Young Townsend’s Solitaires are less successful than adults at defending a feeding territory for the whole winter.


The song is an elaborate, warbling series of notes.  The call is a soft whistled toot.

Similar Species


The nest is a bulky cup of twigs, pine needles, and grass.  It is usually placed on the ground, in a cliff crevice, under a log, or on a dirt road cut.

Number: Usually lay 4 eggs.
Color: Whitish or pale blue with darker markings.

Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 11 days, and leave the nest in another 14 days, though continuing to associate with the adults for some time

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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