Saturday, March 04, 2006

Townsend's Solitaire

Townsend's Solitaire: White eye-ring, gray body and head, black tail with white edging visible in flight

This little thrush is a little beauty that is rarely seen except in high mountain areas in the northernmost states of the USA and western Canada. During the winter months it extends it's territory to lower regions in order to find juniper berries to eat. This photo was shared by a friend, Cheryl, who took it recently at Bennington Lake near Walla Walla, Washington. Online research about the Townsend's Solitaire resulted in these interesting bits of information:

  • The Townsend's Solitaire usually puts its nest on the ground, but may nest above the ground in a decaying stub or a live tree. It is especially fond of nesting along cut banks. All of the sites used are nooks or hollows beneath some sort of overhanging object that shelters the nest from above.
  • During the winter, the male and female are both strongly territorial, defending patches of juniper trees against other solitaires and other birds. They feed largely or even exclusively on the juniper's ripe, fleshy berries for the entire nonbreeding season.
  • The Townsend's Solitaire sings throughout the fall and winter to set up and hold its winter territory. Violent fights may break out in defense of the winter territory, because owners of large, berry-rich territories survive the winter at higher rates than solitaires on small territories with few berries.

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