The haunting ethereal song of the Veery is most likely to be heard at dusk from deep in the forest during spring migration in Tennessee. The combination of a warm reddish-brown back and pale reddish spots on the chest make this thrush relatively easy to identify, if you're able to spot one foraging on the forest floor. The Veery breeds only in the mountains of East Tennessee, but can be found across the state during spring and fall migration. The Veery's breeding range extends across southern Canada and the northern United States southward along the Appalachian Mountains to northern Georgia. In winter this species travels all the way to Brazil making one of the longest migrations of any songbird.
Description: This medium-sized thrush is reddish brown above and pale below with indistinct reddish brown spots on the chest. The Veery has an indistinct pale eye-ring, a white belly, and pale gray sides. The male and female look alike.
Weight: 1.1 oz
Voice: The song is a descending rolling series of ethereal nasal vreer notes. The call note, often heard during migration, is a nasal somewhat raspy single vee-er.
- The Veery is distinguished from other thrushes by its warm reddish brown back, indistinct eye-ring, and indistinct reddish brown chest spots.
- Wood Thrushes also have a warm colored back, but have bold black spots below.
- Swainson's Thrushes have a distinct pale eye-ring, are olive-brown on the back, and have dark chest spots.
- Gray-cheeked Thrushes have a grayish-brown back, lack an eye-ring, and are more heavily spotted in the breast than other thrushes.
Habitat: Veerys are found in a variety of moist forest types including deciduous, mixed hemlock, and spruce-fir.
Diet: Insects and other arthropods, and fruit, especially in the fall.
Nesting and reproduction: In Tennessee Veerys begin nest building in late May.
Clutch Size: 1 to 5 eggs with 3 or 4 most common.
Incubation: The female does the incubating, which lasts 10 to 12 days.
Fledging: The nestlings are fed by the male and female and fledge in 10 to 12 days.
Nest: The female constructs the nest of dead leaves, twigs, and weed stems, lined with finer materials. It is usually placed on the ground in a well-concealed location. Nest constructions takes 6 to 10 days.
Status in Tennessee: The Veery is a locally common summer resident in the mountains of East Tennessee, generally nesting above 3,000 feet. During spring and fall migration it is uncommon, but found across the state. Breeding birds start arriving on territory in late April and depart by mid-September. Spring migrants are present in the state from late April until mid-May, and from early September to late September in the fall.
Dynamic map of Veery eBird observations in Tennessee
- Recent radio-tracking studies have mapped the migratory route of Veerys across the Gulf of Mexico, through the Yucatán Peninsula and Central America, to the wintering grounds in Brazil. Individuals were able to fly 160 miles in one night and at altitudes over 6,000 feet.
- These radio-tracking studies found that Veerys will typically fly one night out of 6, departing about 30 minutes after sunset, and flying until about 30 minutes before sunrise on relatively calm nights.
- The oldest known Veery in the wild was 10 years one month old.
Obsolete English Names: Wilson's thrush, tawny thrush, willow thrush
Best places to see in Tennessee: Veerys breed above 3,000 feet in the Appalachian Mountains of East Tennessee and above 2,700 feet in the Cumberland Mountains. Specific sites include Roan Mountain, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Big Frog Mountain in the Appalachians, and North Cumberland WMA, and Frozen Head State Natural Area in the Cumberland Mountains.
For more information:
National Audubon Society Historical Account
Moskoff, W. 1995. Veery (Catharus fuscescens). In The Birds of North America, No. 142 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Nicholson, C. P. 1997. Atlas of Breeding Birds of Tennessee. Univ. of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.
Robinson J. C. 1990. An Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Tennessee. Univ. of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.
Sibley, D. A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. A. A. Knopf, New York, NY.
Consider using the online bird checklist program at eBird to help us understand bird populations and distributions in Tennessee. Click here to see how.