Bird #81 — Varied Thrush

ixoreus (from ixos, mistletoe, and oreos, mountains) naevius (varied)

Sunday, October 28, 1979 — 1:00 pm

Des Plaines, Illinois

Again, checking the action out my bedroom window paid off.  I had just gotten back from church when I spotted this bird.  Varied Thrushes live west of the Rockies, and as far as I knew, shouldn’t have been anywhere near Des Plaines.  I found out later  that they are rare but regular wanderers.  Every winter, a handful of them show up anywhere from Nebraska to the East Coast.  But what are the chances of one showing up in my backyard just months after I started birding?  I knew what it looked like from field guides and recognized it quickly.

What appears below is the original note that I wrote that day. “First noticed when it landed in top of tall tree.  I thought it was a Robin.  It flew to the crab apple tree behind the shed, on a low branch facing away from me and looking to its right.  I distinctly saw a dark crown, orange stripe above the eye, black eye stripe and orange beneath that.  I noticed gray-black wings with orange bars and a gray back and tail.  It stayed for about a minute, then flew off.  Not believing, I looked at every other bird in the book.  The closest was the Bullock’s Oriole, but this bird was larger, Robin-shaped with a Robin-like bill.  It had no orange rump and no white on the wings.  Whether or not anyone believes me, I am convinced.  My first rare bird — what beginner’s luck!! 

I went outside and tried to find it again without success.  I debated long and hard with myself whether to put this bird on my life list, and obviously, I decided to do so.  But I will be happy when I see another Varied Thrush some day.

UPDATE: I finally saw another Varied Thrush on January 1, 2018. It had been discovered by another birder the day before, hanging out along a creek in Cheyenne Canyon just outside Colorado Springs. I had it in view for about 10 minutes and even took photos. There will be no second-guessing this time!

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