How to Attract Wood Thrush: Proven Strategies and Tips

Are you hoping to see more wood thrushes in your backyard?

Offering an oasis that mimics their natural habitat is crucial to attracting these charming birds. In this article, we’re going to dive into the details of how to do this the right way.

In short, here’s how to attract wood thrush birds:

  • Offer a wood thrush-friendly landscape: leaf litter, berry-producing bushes, and dense layers of trees and shrubs 
  • Give them water and supplemental foods at ground level
  • Never use insecticides on your lawn or garden area

How to Attract Wood Thrush Birds

little brown wood thrush bird on a branch

To successfully attract Wood Thrushes to your garden or backyard, you need a handful of essential features.

Here’s an overview of what you need:

  • Native berry-producing shrubs: Planting native shrubs that produce berries can provide an essential food source for these birds.
  • Insect feeders: Offer suet or other insect-based feeders to supplement their natural diet. Avoid using pesticides in your garden, as this can deplete their insect food source.
  • Leaf litter: Retain an area of leaf litter on the ground, which provides a natural habitat for the insects that Wood Thrushes love to eat.
  • Water: Provide a clean, shallow source of water for drinking and bathing.
  • Mature trees: Wood thrushes tend to thrive in wooded spaces filled with mature trees, as they favor thicket-like areas or those that provide secure shelter.

Now that you know what you need in order to attract Wood Thrushes, let’s dive into the details below.

Creating an Ideal Environment for Wood Thrushes

Plant Berry Bushes

close up of berries growing on a pokeweed plant

As mentioned, berry bushes and shrubs make excellent and also vital food sources that attract wood thrushes.

So if you want to spot some wood thrushes around your home, be sure to grow the following types of berry-producing plant species:

  • Elderberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Holly
  • Virginia creeper
  • Dogwood
  • Pokeweed (pictured above)
  • Spicebush

Leave Some Leaf Litter

wood thrush bird looking through leaf litter for insects

The Wood Thrush prefers to find its food on the forest floor. You’ll find it rifling through leaves, turning them over in search of insects like spiders, beetles, and caterpillars to eat.

It’s important to understand, Wood Thrushes are not the most likely birds to come to traditional bird feeders, so you’ll need to make an appealing foraging area for them.

And you do this by leaving some leaves in a spot for them to forage for insects.

You don’t need to neglect raking your entire yard—just leave some natural leaf cover near the edges for them, or in a designated area that looks fairly natural.

The more you can mimic their feeding environment of the forest floor, the better your chances are of attracting them.

Give Them Dense Tree Cover

wood thrush in a tree

Wood thrushes are fond of tranquil and peaceful environments. They favor old-growth forests, mature trees, and thicket-like spots where they can hide and feed comfortably.

So to create a suitable shelter for these birds, have a mix of dense trees, native shrubs, and bushes in your yard. Ideally, growing close together.

These plants not only provide natural cover, but also cater to their nesting preferences, which involve building their nests in the crotches of trees or shrubs.

As well, planting layers of shrubs in corners, alongside buildings, and along property edges can provide these birds with ample hiding places, and increase the likelihood of attracting them to your yard source.

Add Water Features

wood thrush on a bird bath

Wood thrushes, like many other birds, require fresh water sources for drinking and bathing.

So naturally, installing a birdbath or a shallow water feature in your garden can play a significant role in attracting these birds.

Position the birdbath in a shaded area near ground level, where the wood thrushes will feel more secure. Also, keep the water fresh and clean, refilling it as needed.

In colder climates, using a heated birdbath can provide liquid water year-round and truly make your garden a key resource for wood thrushes.

Try Bird Houses

While Wood Thrushes prefer to nest in their natural habitat, providing birdhouses with a 2-inch entrance hole can be a possible alternative if natural nesting sites are scarce.

You do not need to paint the birdhouse any specific colors—in fact, it would be best if it looked as natural as possible.

If you want to make nesting more attractive in your area for Wood Thrushes, put out some yarn bits and soft fabric scraps for their nests around the bird houses.

Don’t Use Insecticides

As insects are the primary source of food for the Wood Thrush, using insecticides would take away the biggest attractor you have for them.

Not only that, but also, you could be putting the birds in jeopardy if they consume insects that carry insecticides in their bodies.

It’s safest not to use them, at the very least to not diminish their food source.

Feeding Wood Thrushes Wood Thrushes

adult wood thrush feeding baby birds in a nest

First, it’s important to understand that Wood Thrushes are more timid at the feeder and may not be attracted to bird feeders the same as other birds.

They prefer to forage in a natural environment, which is why it’s important to recreate that for them with tips and tricks like berry bushes and leaf litter.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t put some enticing treats out for them, as long as you know what to serve up and how to do it.

Supplemental Foods for Wood Thrushes

Wood thrushes are known to eat a variety of fruits and insects.

To attract them, consider offering enticing food sources like:

  • Mealworms
  • Rehydrated raisins
  • Insect-based suet
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Grapes
  • Hulled sunflower seeds

Keep in mind that Wood Thrushes are mainly insect-eating birds, so going with dried mealworms as a primary offering is a good idea if you want to give them a reliable food source that will keep them coming back.

Beef up the mealworm offerings with fruits like blueberries, sliced grapes, raspberries, and raisins (first soaked in warm water).

Throw in some chunks of suet, or a tasty blend of suet, peanut butter, cornmeal, and berries.

Hulled sunflower seeds are the least likely to thrill Wood Thrushes, but they are still an important source of nutrition for them as the cold weather approaches and they need the sustenance.

Which Bird Feeders Do Wood Thrushes Like?

Platform bird feeders and ground feeding trays.

Wood Thrushes forage for their food on the floor of the forest.

So the best way to serve up your food offerings to Wood Thrushes is on a bird feeder that’s low to the ground and more open. Like a platform bird feeder that doesn’t hang from a high elevation, or better yet, a ground tray.

This will more closely mimic their feeding preferences, and make them feel more comfortable.

You can even leave some food for them on the ground around the bases of trees, preferably closer to a wooded type of cover, like a forest line or denser grouping of trees.

Wood Thrush Identification

wood thrush on the moss covered ground

Wondering how to identify a Wood Thrush?

Here are the key characteristics that give them away.

Size and Measurements

  • The Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) is a medium-sized songbird with a length of 7-3/4 inches and a wingspan of 13 inches.
  • Being a member of the thrush family, their size is comparable to other familiar species such as the American Robin.

Color and Markings

  • With their brownish upper parts and reddish crown, Wood Thrushes exhibit a unique coloration that sets them apart from other thrush species.
  • Their white eye ring and spotted breast with bold black markings further emphasize their distinct appearance.
  • The white underparts blend seamlessly with the numerous spots, creating a striking pattern that makes them easily recognizable.

Wood Thrush Sound

  • One of the most striking features of the wood thrush is their flutelike song, which is considered among the most beautiful songs in the avian world.
  • Check the video below for a sample of the Wood Thrush song!

Similar Species

While Wood Thrushes have their own unique features, they might be sometimes confused with other related species, such as the Veery, Swainson’s Thrush, and Hermit Thrush.

However, these species differ in various aspects:

  • Veery: This bird has a more uniform, cinnamon-brown color on its upper parts, with less distinct spots on the breast.
  • Swainson’s Thrush: It has an olive-brown coloration, buffy eye rings, and a more distinct buffy wash on the face and breast.
  • Hermit Thrush: Known for a reddish tail which contrasts with its brownish back, and fainter spotting on the chest.

Habitat and Distribution

The Wood Thrush is a North American passerine bird that can be found in various habitats across the continent.

This section will provide information on their breeding and wintering habitats, migration patterns, and territory range.

Habitat Preferences

  • Wood Thrushes are commonly found in mixed forests, where they spend most of their time on the forest floor searching for food.
  • The forests they inhabit typically consist of a mix of deciduous trees, with an emphasis on older, mature trees that provide the necessary cover and nesting opportunities these birds require.

Winter Migration Patterns

  • Wood Thrushes are migratory birds, and their range map reveals their travel patterns across the North American continent source.
  • During the winter, they migrate to Central America and southern Mexico source.

Territory Range

  • Covering a wide range across North America, the Wood Thrush’s distribution spans from the eastern United States to the western edge of the great plains, and from southeastern Canada down to the Gulf of Mexico.
  • As they move to their wintering habitats in Central America and southern Mexico, their ranges can overlap with other thrush species, highlighting the importance of preserving these habitats for the overall health and diversity of bird populations source.

Behavior and Ecology

Breeding Season

  • The Wood Thrush is a beautiful North American bird that belongs to the Turdidae family.
  • During the breeding season, these birds can be found primarily in deciduous forests across the eastern United States.
  • As a Neotropical migrant, the Wood Thrush migrates to warmer climates, such as Central America and southern Mexico, during winter months1.

Nesting Habits

  • Wood Thrushes are skilled nest builders and usually construct their nests in trees or shrubs, preferably within deciduous forests.
  • They tend to nest in deciduous trees at heights ranging from 10-15 feet above the ground, although they can be found at heights up to 50 feet.
  • Typically, they select sites with dense vegetation for protection from potential predators and brown-headed cowbirds, which are known to lay their eggs in Wood Thrush nests2.
  • Their nests are constructed by the female birds and are made of materials like grass, leaves, moss, weeds, and bark strips, mixed with mud and lined with soft material such as rootlets source.

Diet and Feeding

  • Wood Thrushes have a diet that mostly consists of insects and invertebrates found within the leaf litter on the forest floor3.
  • They forage by hopping and scratching the ground, adeptly flipping aside leaf litter with their bills to seek out food.
  • In addition to insects, their diet includes fruits and berries, often found in native berry-producing shrubs4.

Conservation and Threats

Conservation Status

The Wood Thrush, a beautiful songbird, is currently experiencing population declines due to various threats, particularly habitat loss.

While Wood Thrushes can still be found in many eastern woodlands, it is crucial to take measures to protect their habitats and facilitate their survival.

Impact of Brown-Headed Cowbirds

  • One significant threat to the Wood Thrush population is the Brown-Headed Cowbird.
  • Cowbirds are known for laying their eggs in the nests of other bird species, including the Wood Thrush. As a result, the host bird – in this case, the Wood Thrush – expends valuable time and energy raising the cowbird’s offspring while neglecting its own.
  • This parasitic behavior further contributes to Wood Thrush population declines.

Preserving Habitat

  • Protecting and maintaining suitable habitats for Wood Thrushes is key to their conservation.
  • Wood Thrushes rely on large woodlands for breeding, which typically contain understory vegetation and native berry-producing shrubs, providing cover and food sources.
  • Wintering habitats for the Wood Thrush are also important, as they require mature forests with adequate water sources in Central America.
  • In addition to preserving vital habitats, you can support organizations like the Audubon Society that actively work to protect and maintain bird populations, including the Wood Thrush.
  • By engaging with these organizations and programs, you can deepen your understanding of wood thrushes and make a positive impact on their preservation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What types of food can attract Wood Thrush?

Wood Thrushes mainly eat insects and berries.

To attract them to your yard, minimize or eliminate the use of insecticides to ensure a healthy supply of insect food sources.

You can also plant fruit-bearing trees and shrubs that produce berries they enjoy, such as elderberries, blackberries, and raspberries.

Which plants do Wood Thrush prefer for nesting?

Wood Thrushes prefer to nest in dense vegetation, typically choosing deciduous trees and shrubs with ample leaf cover for protection.

Plant species like American hornbeam, red maple, and eastern red cedar can provide ideal nesting sites for Wood Thrushes in your yard.

How can I create a bird-friendly habitat for Wood Thrush?

To create a bird-friendly habitat for Wood Thrushes, provide a variety of native trees, shrubs, and ground cover to promote a diverse ecosystem.

Install a bird bath or shallow water feature to attract thrushes and other birds seeking hydration and bathing opportunities.

Also, minimize or eliminate the use of harmful chemicals in your garden to protect thrushes and their food sources from contamination.

What type of nesting material do Wood Thrush look for?

Wood Thrushes build their nests with a variety of materials, including dead leaves, twigs, grass, and bark strips. They typically line the nest with mud and rootlets.

To aid in their nest-building process, you can provide some of these materials by creating small brush piles or leaving leaf litter and fallen branches undisturbed.

Which bird feeders work best for Wood Thrush?

Wood Thrushes primarily feed on insects and berries, so traditional seed-based bird feeders might not be effective in attracting them.

Instead, you can use live or dried mealworm feeders, ground feeders, platform, and suet feeders with insect-based suet cakes to entice these insectivorous birds.

Offering fruit in specialized fruit feeders can also be an option, particularly during the non-breeding season when they rely more on fruit for sustenance.

What can be done to support Wood Thrush during their breeding months?

During the breeding months, Wood Thrushes can benefit from a stable and safe nesting environment.

Preserve and protect their natural habitat by avoiding the unnecessary removal of trees and shrubs, and minimize human disturbance near their nesting sites.

Additionally, eliminate the use of harmful chemicals in your garden to provide a healthy ecosystem for both the adult birds and their developing offspring.


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