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Gray-cheeked Thrush

Catharus minimus

Length: 7 to 7.75 Wingspan: 12 to 13 inches Seasonality: Migrant
ID Keys: Grayish-brown upperparts, grayish-white underparts, spotted chest, indistinct grayish eye-ring, grayish neck and face.

Gray-cheeked Thrush - Catharus minimusThe Gray-cheeked Thrush breeds further north than it's similar close thrush relatives (Swainson's Thrush, Veery, Hermit Thrush), even utilizing thickets on the tundra for nesting.  They are extremely shy and difficult to approach, a habit that makes them doubly difficult to view when combined with their preferred habitat of dense forests.  Some of the species migrate all the way from South America, to Alaska, and then across the Bering Strait to Siberian nesting grounds.


Found in northern spruce forests during the summer breeding season.  In the northern part of their range, they will utilize stunted spruce forests up to the treeline, and will use willow and alder thickets on the tundra.  They are found in tropical forests during the winter.


Insects and berries make up the majority of the diet.  Will also feed on spiders and other small invertebrates.


Usually feeds by hopping along the ground in search of insects.  They will also perch in trees and bushes as they feed on fruits and berries.  Males often chase females through the forest in prelude to breeding.


Non-breeder in South Dakota. On their breeding grounds, the nest of a Gray-cheeked Thrush is a cup, placed in a small tree or shrub, typically within 12 feet of the ground. The nest is constructed of twigs, weed stems, strips of bark, and grasses, lined with fine grasses or moss. The female alone incubates the eggs, which hatch after about 13 days. The young fledge from the nest 10-14 days after hatching.


Thin whistling reminiscent of an oboe, with middle phrases that rise and first and last phrases that fall.

1Click here to hear the song of a Gray-cheeked Thrush. 

2Click here to hear the call of a Gray-cheeked Thrush.


Summers throughout northern Canada and Alaska, as well as in Siberia. Winters in South America. In South Dakota, Gray-cheeked Thrush are an uncommon spring migrant, and a rare fall migrant. 

Interactive eBird map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Gray-cheeked Thrush sightings

Similar Species:

Multiple thrush species with a similar structure and overall plumage migrate through the state. Species most likely to be confused with a Gray-cheeked Thrush are the following:

Conservation Status:

There are indications that birds at the southern end of its breeding range are in decline, potentially due to climate change. They are a poorly researched species, however, and populations trends are unknown. They are, however, considered a species of "Least Concern" by the IUCN.

Further Information:

1) Boreal Songbird Initiative - Gray-cheeked Thrush

2) WhatBird - Gray-cheeked Thrush

3) Audubon Guide - Gray-cheeked Thrush

Photo Information:

May 10th, 2020 - Newton Hills State Park, South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Audio File Credits:

1Steve Hampton. Recorded near Nome, Alaska on June 3rd, 2017. Original recording and information from xeno-canto.

2Patrick Aberg. Recorded near Nome, Alaska on June 6th, 2017. Original recording and information from xeno-canto.


Click on the map below for a higher-resoulution view
Gray-cheeked Thrush - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon spring migrant, rare fall migrant.

Additional Gray-cheeked Thrush Photos
Gray-cheeked Thrush 1 - Catharus minimusGray-cheeked Thrush 2 - Catharus minimus