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Contact information
For information on Wisconsin's rare animals, contact:
Rich Staffen
Conservation Biologist

Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)



Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus), a Special Concern species, is medium-sized thrush with a dark olive-green to light brown back. Its breast is white contrasted with intermittent dark spots. The species also has a buffy eye-ring and face. The species breeds in dense understories of coniferous forests, particularly spruce and fir, and mixed coniferous-hardwood stands in the northern region of the state. The nests are constructed from various plant materials such as grasses, stems, mosses and rootlets. One to five greenish-blue eggs with red or brown speckles are laid and incubated by the female. The species is sensitive to human disturbance near its breeding site. The recommended avoidance period for this species is May 20 - August 10.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where occurrences of this species meet NHI data standards and is not meant as a comprehensive map of all observations.

Note: Species recently added to the NHI Working List may temporarily have blank occurrence maps.

Documented locations of Catharus ustulatus in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusSC/M
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2B
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

A guidance document is not available at this time. However, the bird calendar [PDF] contains dates for avoiding impacts to this and other rare Wisconsin birds when planning management activities.



Swainson's Thrush

Photo © Josť Loaiza.

Swainson's Thrush

Swainson's Thrush

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Swainson's Thrush

Swainson's Thrush

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Swainson's Thrush

Photo © Jack Bartholmai.

Swainson's Thrush

Swainson's Thrush, a WI Special Concern species that is also on the US Forest Service's Regional Forester's Sensitive Species list for Region 9, a multi-state area that includes the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

Photo © Jack Bartholmai.

Wildlife Action Plan

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Swainson's Thrush. Only natural communities for which Swainson's Thrush is "high" (score=3) or "moderate" (score=2) associated are shown. See the key to association scores for complete definitions. Please see the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Swainson's Thrush. The scores correspond to the map (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None). For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

This map shows the probability of Swainson's Thrush occurring in each of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes.  Actual scores can be found in the table to the left.

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Landscape-Community combinations of highest ecological priority*

Ecological priorities are the combinations of natural communities and ecological landscapes that provide Wisconsin's best opportunities to conserve important habitats for a given Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The 10 highest scoring combinations are considered ecological priorities and are listed below. More than 10 combinations are listed if multiple combinations tied for 10th place. For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

* Ecological priority score is a relative measure that is not meant for comparison between species. This score does not consider socio-economical factors that may dictate protection and/or management priorities differently than those determined solely by ecological analysis. Further, a low ecological priority score does not imply that management or preservation should not occur on a site if there are important reasons for doing so locally.

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Issues/threats and conservation actions

Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.

Threats/issues and conservations actions for rare animals

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Last revised: Tuesday, May 21, 2019