Wood thrush
Hylocichla mustelina
ITIS Species Code:   179777         NatureServ Element Code:   ABPBJ19010
NatureServe Global Rank: 
NatureServe State (NC) Rank: 
Federal Status: 
NC State Status: 
Southern Blue Ridge:  24 Southern Piedmont:  25 South Atl. Coastal Plain:  21
Land Unit

US Fish & Wildlife Service
US Forest Service
US National Park Service
US Department of Defense
NC State Parks
NC University System
NC Wildlife Res. Com.
NC Forest Service
NC Div. of Coastal Mgmt.
Local Governments
Non-Governmental Org.
Other Public Lands
Private Lands

GAP Status 1-2
All Protected Lands




% of Dist. on
Prot. Lands

12.6 %
44.0 %
9.0 %
8.7 %
4.7 %
3.0 %
11.6 %
1.4 %
0.9 %
3.0 %
3.0 %
0.2 %
< 0.1 %

42.9 %
% of Dist. on
All Lands

1.7 %
5.8 %
1.2 %
1.1 %
0.6 %
0.4 %
1.5 %
0.2 %
0.1 %
0.1 %
0.4 %
< 0.1 %
86.7 %

5.7 %
Found across state (Potter et al. 1980), but absent from the barrier islands (Fussell and Lyons 1990).

Associated with the shady understory of tall deciduous trees growing in damp areas with decaying leaf litter on the forest floor (Kaufman 1996, Nicholson 1997). These habitat requirements are met in medium to mature deciduous and mixed forests and swamps (Potter et al. 1980), especially along streams (Fussell 1994), as well as in wooded suburban areas and college campuses (Pearson 1959). Tolerant of human activity (Harrison 1975).

The nest is often placed in the lowest horizontal or upward sloping branch of a tree (Brackbill 1958, James et al. 1984, Nicholson 1997), or next to the stem of a sapling (Nicholson 1997). It can be located from 6 to 50 feet above the ground (Harrison 1975).


BREEDING: deciduous or mixed forests with a dense tree canopy and a fairly well-developed deciduous understory, especially where moist (Bertin 1977, Roth 1987, Roth et al. 1996). Bottomlands and other rich hardwood forests are prime habitats. Also frequents pine forests with a deciduous understory and well-wooded residential areas (Hamel et al. 1982). Thickets and early successional woodland generally do not provide suitable habitat (Bertin 1977). Bertin (1977) found wood thrushes to require one or more trees at least 12 m tall, possibly for song perches, whereas Morse (1971) reported nesting in stands of young white pine with a canopy under 9 m in height. Nests usually are placed in a crotch or are saddled on a branch of a shrub, sapling, or large tree.

NON-BREEDING: In migration and winter, habitats include forest and woodland of various types from humid lowland to arid or humid montane forest, also scrub and thickets; primarily undisturbed to moderately disturbed wet primary forest; may wander into riparian forest and various stages of second growth (Rappole et al. 1989, Winker et al. 1990). Were recorded exclusively in forest in Atlantic lowlands of Costa Rica (Hagan and Johnston 1992). Winker et al. (1990) studied within-forest preferences of birds wintering in southern Veracruz and found that areas with gaps were preferred in this lowland rainforest; areas with heavy ground cover were also favored.

Occupied Landcover Map Units:
Code NameDescription NC Natural Heritage Program Equivalent
75 Tidal Swamp Forest Swamp tupelo dominated forest with or without black tupelo and/or cypress trees. Restricted to the tidal zones in the coastal plain. May have inclusions of coastal red cedar woodlands. Tidal cypress - gum swamp
50 Coastal Plain Mixed Bottomland Forests Includes forests dominated by a variety of hardwood species, including sweetgum, cottonwood, red maple. Coastal Plain Bottomland Hardwood (in part), Coastal Plain Levee Forest
49 Coastal Plain Oak Bottomland Forest Bottomland forests dominated by deciduous oak alliances. Oaks represented can include swamp chestnut, cherrybark, willow, and/or overcup oak. Inclusions of loblolly pine temporarily flooded forests occur in patches. Hydrology is temporarily to seasonally flooded. Coastal Plain Bottomland Hardwoods (in part) blackwater subtype, brownwater subtype
158 Coastal Plain Nonriverine Wet Flat Forests Loblolly pine - Atlantic white-cedar - red maple - swamp tupelo saturated forests as well as forests dominated by loblolly, sweetgum, and red maple in non-riverine flats. Non-riverine Wet Hardwood Forest
41 Peatland Atlantic White-Cedar Forest Dense stands of Atlantic white cedar with saturated hydrology. Can include swamp tupelo, red maple, and pond pines with a moderate shrub and herb layer. Peatland Atlantic White-Cedar Forest
15 Seepage and Streamhead Swamps Includes extensive peat flats in the coastal plain, dominated by swamp tupelo, maples, and Atlantic white cedar alliances. In the sandhills includes streamhead pond pine and bay forests alliances. Saturated hydrology. Bay Forest, Small Depression Pocosin, Streamhead Atlantic White Cedar Forest, Streamhead Pocosins
30 Cypress-Gum Floodplain Forests Swamps dominated by black or swamp tupelo with or without Taxodium. Seasonally to semi-permanently flooded hydrology. Cypress-Gum Swamps
78 Pond-Cypress - Gum Swamps, Savannas and Lakeshores Cypress dominated swamps and lakeshores. Can include bays dominated by pond cypress or shorelines of coastal plain lakes with a narrow band of cypress. Non-riverine Swamp Forest, Natural Lakeshores (in part)
385 Oak Bottomland Forest and Swamp Forest The swamp chestnut oak, cherrybark oak, shumard oak and sweetgum alliance is one representative. Other alliances are dominated by water, willow, and overcup oaks. Swamp forests can be dominated by sweetgum, red maple, and black gum being dominant. Loblolly can occur in combination with sweetgum and red maple, or with tulip poplar. Includes saturated and semi- to permanently flooded forests in the mountains. Piedmont/Mountain Bottomland Forest, Piedmont/Mountain Swamp Forest
63 Coastal Plain Mesic Hardwood Forests Beech dominated forests with white oak and northern red oak as possible co-dominants. Dry-mesic to mesic forests on slopes and small stream bottoms in the coastal plain. Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forest, Basic Mesic Forests
138 Coastal Plain Dry to Dry-Mesic Oak Forests Oak dominated forests of the coastal plain. Includes white oak forests with water oak or northern red oak and hickories as co-dominants. Dry Mesic Oak Hickory Forest, Basic Oak Hickory Forest, Dry Oak Hickory Forest
87 Pocosin Woodlands and Shrublands Includes pond pine woodland, low pocosin and high pocosin shrub dominated areas. Canebrakes and bay forests may be present. Pond Pine Woodlands, Peatland Canebrake, Small Depression Pocosin
67 Wet Longleaf or Slash Pine Savanna Wet flatwoods and pine savannas, typically dominated by longleaf pines, but slash or pond pines may be the dominant pines. Wet Pine Flatwoods
97 Mesic Longleaf Pine Longleaf pine woodlands without a major scrub oak component. Slash or loblolly pines may be present as well. Mesic Pine Flatwoods
230 Piedmont Mesic Forest American Beech - Red Oak - White Oak Forests. Mesic Mixed Hardwood
384 Piedmont/Mountain Mixed Bottomland Hardwood Forests Includes temporarily to seasonally forests dominated by hardwood species. Hardwoods include sweetgum, red maple, sycamore which co-occur in a mosaic of bottomland and levee positions. Includes alluvial hardwood forests in the mountains. Hemlock and white pine may occur as inclusions, but are generally mapped separately. Piedmont/Mountain Alluvial Forest, Piedmont/Mountain Levee Forest
383 Piedmont Mixed Successional Forest Generally loblolly mixed with successional hardwoods. Sweetgum, tulip poplar and red maple are common co-dominants in these successional forests. No equivalent
228 Piedmont Dry-Mesic Oak and Hardwood Forests Primarily oak dominated forests, white oak is often dominant, with co-dominants including . Also represented by sweetgum and tulip poplar dominated forests. Dry Mesic Oak Hickory Forest, Basic Oak Hickory Forest, Dry Oak Hickory Forest
222 Piedmont Dry-Mesic Pine Forests Loblolly dominated forests resulting from succession following clearing. This type occurs on all moisture regimes following disturbance with the exception of the extremely xeric sites. No equivalent
382 Dry Mesic Oak Pine Forests Mixed forests of the coastal plain and piedmont. Includes loblolly pine with white, southern red and/or post oak and loblolly with water oak. On basic sites of the piedmont, eastern red cedar may co-occur with post, black, and blackjack oaks. Dry Mesic Oak Hickory Forest, Xeric Hard Pan Forest, Chestnut Oak Forest, Dry Mesic Oak Hickory Forest, Dry Oak Hickory Forest
51 Deciduous Cultivated Plantation Planted deciduous trees. Includes sweetgum and sycamore plantations. No equivalent
36 Successional Deciduous Forests Regenerating deciduous trees with a shrub stature. Commonly dominated by sweetgum, tulip poplars and maples. No equivalent
202 Residential Urban Includes vegetation interspersed in residential areas. Includes lawns, mixed species woodlots, and horticultural shrubs. Vegetation accounts for between 20 - 70% of the cover. No equivalent
517 Hemlock Floodplain Forest Alluvial forest with hemlock and/or white pine in mountains and western piedmont. Hydrology is generally temporarily to seasonally flooded. Canada Hemlock Forest
522 Northern Hardwoods High Elevation forests including yellow birch, American beech, and yellow buckeye. Includes forests with Hemlock and Yellow Birch. Northern Hardwoods Forest, Boulderfield Forest
525 Appalachian Oak Forest A variety of oak forest types including Black, White, Scarlet Oaks in dry to mesic situations. Includes forests historically co-dominated by American Chestnut. High Elevation Red Oak Forest, Montane White Oak Forest
526 Appalachian Cove Forest Mixed Mesophytic forests of the mountains. Includes tuliptree, basswood, yellow buckeye and surgar maple. This class is mapped to include cove forests dominated or co-dominated by hemlock. Rich Cove Forest, Acidic Cove Forest
527 Appalachian Hemlock Upland hemlock forests of the moutains region. Vary from side slopes to steep slope positions. Canada Hemlock Forest
533 Appalachian Swamp Forest Evergreen and deciduous forests with saturated hydrologies. This class may contain a variety of trees species, including hemlock - red maple, pitch pine, and white pine forests. Swamp Forest-Bog Complex, Southern Appalachian Bog, Southern Appalachian Fen
View Entire Landcover Legend
Additional Spatial Constraints:
Exclude all area outside of known range.
Exclude the outerbanks.
Limited to elevation range: less than 4000 ft.
Winker, K., J. H. Rappole, and M. A. Ramos. 1990. Population dynamics of the wood thrush in southern Veracruz, Mexico. Condor 92:444-460.

Winker, K., J. H. Rappole, and M. A. Ramos. 1990. Within-forest preferences of wood thrushes wintering in the rainforest of southern Veracruz. Wilson Bull. 102:715-720.

Roth, R.R., and R.K. Johnson. 1993. Long-term dynamics of a Wood Thrush population breeding in a forest fragment. Auk 110:37-48.

Hoover, J. P., M. C. Brittingham, and L. J. Goodrich. 1995. Effects of forest patch size on nesting success of wood thrushes. Auk 112:146-155.

Carter, M., G. Fenwick, C. Hunter, D. Pashley, D. Petit, J. Price, and J. Trapp. 1996. Watchlist 1996:For the future. Field Notes 50(3):238-240.

Bent, A. C. 1949. Life histories of North American thrushes, kinglets, and their allies. U. S. Nat. Mus. Bull.196. 452 pp., 51 pls.

Hagan, J.M., III, and D.W. Johnston, editors. 1992. Ecology and conservation of neotropical migrant landbirds. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. xiii + 609 pp.

Fussell, J. III and M. Lyons. 1990. Birds of the Outer Banks [pamphlet]. Eastern National Parks and Monument Association Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society.

Sauer, J.R., and S. Droege. 1992. Geographical patterns in population trends of neotropical migrants in North America. Pages 26-42 in J.M. Hagan III and D.W. Johnston, editors. Ecology and conservation of neotropical migrant landbirds. Smithsonian Institu

Bertin, R.I. 1977. Breeding habitats of the Wood Thrush and Veery. Condor 79:303-311.

Rappole, J.H., and D.W. Warner. 1980. Ecological aspects of migrant bird behavior in Veracruz, Mexico. Pages 353-393 in A. Keast and E.S. Morton, editors. Migrant birds in the neotropics:ecology, behavior, distribution, and conservation. Smithsonian Insti

Fussell, J.O. III. 1994. A birderís guide to coastal North Carolina. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press.

Kaufman K. 1996. Lives of North American Birds. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Roth, R.R., M.S. Johnson, and T.J. Underwood. 1996. Wood Thrush (HYLOCICHLA MUSTELINA). In A. Poole and F. Gill, editors, The Birds of North America, No. 246. Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, and American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, DC. 28 pp.

Winker, K., and J. H. Rappole. 1988. The relationship between HYLOCICHLA and CATHARUS (Turdinae). The Auk 105:392-4.

Nicholson CP. 1997. Atlas of the breeding birds of Tennessee. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.

Brackbill, H. 1958. Nesting behavior of the Wood Thrush. Wilson Bulletin 70:70-89.

Rappole, J. H., M. A. Ramos, and K. Winkler. 1989. Wintering wood thrush movements and mortality in southern Veracruz. Auk 106:402-410.

Hamel, P. B., H. E. LeGrand Jr., M. R. Lennartz, and S. A. Gauthreaux, Jr. 1982. Bird-habitat relationships on southeastern forest lands. U.S. Forest Service General Technical Report SE-22.

Harrison, H.H. 1975. A field guide to bird's nests in the U.S. east of the Mississippi River. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. 257 p.

James, F.C, R.F. Johnston, N.O. Wamer, G.J. Niemi and W.J. Boecklen. 1984. The Grinnellian niche of the Wood Thrush. American Naturalist 124:17-30.

Harrison, C. 1978. A field guide to the nests, eggs and nestlings of North American birds. Collins, Cleveland, Ohio.

Harrison, H.H. 1979. A field guide to western birds' nests. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 279 pp.

Keast, A., and E. S. Morton. 1980. Migrant birds in the Neotropics; ecology, distribution, and conservation. Smithsonian Inst. Press, Washington, D.C.

Potter, E. F., J. F. Parnell, and R. P. Teulings. 1980. Birds of the Carolinas. Univ. North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill. 408 pp.

Terres, J.K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU), Committee on Classification and Nomenclature. 1983. Check-list of North American Birds. Sixth Edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas.

Roth, R.R. 1987. Assessment of habitat quality for Wood Thrush in a residential area. Pages 139-49 in L.W. Adams and D.L. Leedy, editors. Integrating man and nature in the metropolitan environment. Proceedings of the National Symposium on Urban Wildlife,

Stiles, F.G., and A.F. Skutch. 1989. A guide to the birds of Costa Rica. Comstock Publ. Associates, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York. 511 pp.

Droege, S., and J.R. Sauer. 1990. North American Breeding Bird Survey, annual summary, 1989. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Report 90(8). 22 pp.

Sibley, C.G., and B.L. Monroe. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut. xxiv + 1111 pp.

Morse, D. H. 1971. Effects of the arrival of a new species upon habitat utilization by two forest thrushes in Maine. The Wilson Bulletin 83:57-65.

10 March 2005
This data was compiled and/or developed by the North Carolina GAP Analysis Project.

For more information please contact them at:
NC-GAP Analysis Project
Dept. of Zoology, NCSU
Campus Box 7617
Raleigh, NC 27695-7617
(919) 513-2853