"Wood thrush. A. Wilson. Turdus Melodus. La Grivette d’Amérique de Buffon. Mill Grove, Pennsylvania, 1806 Aug. 14. Pastel, graphite, and ink on paper; 41 x 25 cm. Unsigned. Audubon no. 209, Houghton no. 89.
Wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina). Size 7.5-8 inches. Wood thrushes arguably possess the most melodious song of any bird breeding in the United States; to record and play back its song at low speed, as ornithologist Don Kroodsma has done, is to experience the dramatic effect of the bird’s ability to sing two separate songs simultaneously, one produced from each side of its syrinx, or voice box. Many species of songbirds possess this capability, but wood thrushes have brought the practice to near perfection. They are the New World’s best answer to Europe’s nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos). Audubon’s Latin name for this species, “Turdus Melodus,” although incorrectly placing it in the same genus as our American robin (T. miratorius), is better than the current name at capturing its essence. Wood thrushes are an example of a woodland species that has likely been adversely affected by acid rain, which was formerly thought to affect only aquatic species. Acid rain leaches calcium from the soil, depleting a resource critical to many aspects of wood thrushes’ survival and reproduction, such as their ability to produce robust eggshells. Audubon depicts the bird here on the branch of a black cherry (Prunus serotina).”