Mountain thrush or Clay-colored thrush?

Mountain thrush, previously Mountain robin, courtesy of Richard Garrigues

Watch out for the Mountain thrush (Turdus plebejus) in our area at this time of year. I have commented before on my own tendency not to look carefully at Costa Rica’s national bird, the yigüirro (Clay-colored thrush (Turdus grayi), simply because it is so numerous. Four of the species of the Turdidae are still listed as robins in Garrigues and Dean’s The Birds of Costa Rica (2007 edition) but all of them have now been renamed, more correctly, thrushes. 

Yesterday, at least one individual in a small flock of yigüirros was a Mountain thrush. It’s not that they are hard to distinguish. The Mountain thrush is definitely more grey in colour, rather than brown, and while different lighting situations may blur this distinction, a good look at the bill colour (black for plebejus) is always a clincher. The following photo, taken here in my garden in San Antonio, shows the clear differences.

This bird had a brush with our windows but soon made a full recovery

This bird had a brush with our windows but soon made a full recovery


The Mountain thrush, as its name indicates, prefers higher elevations, but it moves down-slope after breeding and so it is at this time of the year that it’s likely to show up on my home patch.

There are two other thrush species that ought to be here in our area, the White-throated thrush (Turdus assimilis) and the Pale-vented thrush (Turdus obsoletus). I have identified neither of these mid-elevation species in the Turrialba area in these seven years in Costa Rica.  Have I simply overlooked them? They do not appear on the CATIE checklist but are noted both for Espino Blanco (very close to here) and for the Rancho Naturalista at Tuis. In the latter location, they are rare species, while there is no indication of their frequency at Espino Blanco.

While I am on the look-out for the first migrant warblers, which theoretically can arrive in mid-August, I will be sure to inspect all yigüirros even more carefully.

For those who like lists, here are my home-patch species for this week:

  1. Gray-headed chachalaca
  2. Black vulture
  3. Turkey vulture
  4. Roadside hawk
  5. Red-billed pigeon
  6. White-tipped dove
  7. Crimson-fronted parakeet
  8. White-crowned parrot
  9. Groove-billed ani
  10. Bare-shanked screech-owl
  11. Tropical screech-owl
  12. Violet sabrewing
  13. White-necked jacobin
  14. Rufous-tailed hummingbird
  15. Green-breasted mango
  16. Keel-billed toucan
  17. Streak-headed woodcreeper
  18. Paltry tyrannulet
  19. Yellow-bellied elaenia
  20. Common tody-flycatcher
  21. Great kiskadee
  22. Social flycatcher
  23. Gray-capped flycatcher
  24. Tropical kingbird
  25. Brown jay
  26. Blue-and-white swallow
  27. Plain wren
  28. House wren
  29. Orange-billed nightingale-thrush
  30. Mountain thrush
  31. Clay-colored thrush
  32. Tropical parula
  33. Bananaquit
  34. Passerini’s tanager
  35. Golden-hooded tanager
  36. Blue-gray tanager
  37. Palm tanager
  38. Variable seedeater
  39. Yellow-faced grassquit
  40. Black-striped sparrow
  41. Rufous-collared sparrow
  42. Buff-throated saltator
  43. Black-headed saltator
  44. Melodious blackbird
  45. Great-tailed grackle
  46. Montezuma oropendola

2 thoughts on “Mountain thrush or Clay-colored thrush?

  1. 46 species just around your house eh? Not bad. Thank you for sharing bit on the jiguirros. I was unaware of the change from robins to thrushes — interesting. i’ll be sharing this with some of our naturalists, although i won’t be surprised if some of them ‘are aware’ of this. your posts are always interesting reading — thank you sir. alex fernandez – serendipity adventures


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