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It’s in your nature: Some birds of the forest floor

Most often when we look for birds or observe them, we are looking up. We notice a flock of snow geese flying overhead or a kettle of five or six vultures circling above us. While you’re taking a nature walk or your morning jog, the neighborhood mockingbird or local crows catch your ear from above as well. But there are many birds less noticeable because of their choice of habitats. These are the birds that spend much of their day on the forest floor. To add to their inconspicuousness is the rather dense forest vegetation that now covers the ground, helping to conceal them.

Some of our common forest floor birds are a number of thrush species. You might remember a column from a year or two ago reminding you that robins and bluebirds are thrushes but they, especially the bluebird, are seldom seen living in the forest.

A morning walk in a spring woods will help you realize that quite a few species are found either feeding or nesting on the forest floor, or in some cases, both. Some of the most common forest floor birds are the wood thrush, veery, ovenbird and eastern towhee. If you’re an avid birder, you can even find Swainson’s thrushes or gray-cheeked thrushes there, too.

My regular early morning May birding trips usually find me, at least part of the morning, on some lightly traveled roads. Often, I can find the aforementioned birds hopping across the road, making it easier for me to find them. But I actually listen for their varied songs and then grab my “binocs” to make a correct identification. The wood thrush, just holding its own of late, has a beautiful, flutelike song.

Unfortunately, their winter homes in the tropics are being cleared and the spring mornings are a bit quieter. I watched a female carrying nesting material the other morning, and from a distance, I located the nest “under construction.” It was about 7 feet from the ground in the fork of a 2-inch sapling.

About 20 years ago, when I still went spring “gobbler hunting,” an ovenbird made about five or six trips to the base of a yellow poplar I was sitting near. When I left my spot, I painstakingly searched with my binoculars until I saw the “ovenlike” nest she was building directly on the ground. Ovenbirds are a warbler species and one of few that are ground nesters.

It is still a “neat” time to spy a few new birds, but don’t forget to check out the forest floor.

Test your outdoor knowledge: Brood X of the periodical cicada will soon be emerging from the soil after 17 years. _________ is what triggers them to emerge almost all at the same time. A. The first full moon of the month, B. When the soil temperature reaches 64 degrees, C. When the daylight reaches 16 hours a day, D. When their drill sergeant gives them their orders.

Last Week’s Trivia Answer: New research has indicated that a hibernating woodchuck, for example, may rouse itself every 10 days or so while in its den. The actual reason for this is still conjecture.

Contact Barry Reed at breed71@gmail.com.

Look for wood thrushes foraging in the leaves or perched on a low shrub singing to claim their territory. BARRY REED/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Hermit thrushes are easy to identify by the brighter tail, which it slowly bobs when perched.
Eastern towhees, actually large sparrows, scratch tirelessly in the forest leaves and “stay” low in the vegetation.
The Swainson's thrush is maybe the least common thrush and forest floor bird.