Towsend’s Solitaire

We watched as this Townsend’s Solitaire spent the better part of their day defending and consuming berries on a small patch of juniper trees.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology “During the winter, the male and female are both strongly territorial, defending patches of juniper trees against other solitaires and other birds. They feed largely or even exclusively on the juniper’s ripe, fleshy berries for the entire nonbreeding season.”

That sure appeared to be the case this day as this bird sat watch and every once in awhile darted into the tree and grabbed a berry.

One study suggested a single Solitaire would need to eat between 42,000 and 84,000 juniper berries to survive the winter. I don’t think this small patch contained enough for this bird and sharing would be out of the question.

After a quick bite they were back perched and on the lookout. It has been observed that violent fights may break out in defense of the winter territory, because owners of large, berry-rich territories survive the winter at higher rates than solitaires on small territories with few berries. This day all was calm and the owner of this territory had it all to themselves.

To find out more about these inconspicuous but fascinating birds:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Townsends_Solitaire/overview

http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/townsends-solitaire

https://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/Species-Account/nb/species/towsol/overview

20 thoughts on “Towsend’s Solitaire

  1. That is so very many berries to eat and defend! What a treat to see a Townsends solitaire, Mike. The photos of the bird with the berry in his or her mouth are especially delightful.

  2. I agree with Jet! The ones with the berries in his mouth makes me smile. The only time I’ve ever seen this specie is in Colorado, Garden of the Gods. I look forward to ticking one for this year when I visit again come March. PS – I never realized the golden-brown patches on the flight feathers; none of photos show this.

    1. Hi Belinda and thanks. It is always fun to get into the behavior and the more I read about the Solitaire the more interesting it got. Hope your day is gong well and you are having a wonderful weekend.

    1. Hi Jane and thanks, these are fun birds to observe once you get to know them and reading about the studies that have been done to determine how many berries they eat is sure fascinating. Hope your day is gong well and you are having a fine weekend.

    1. Hi Eliza, when we first encountered this bird several years ago it was in a misty hot springs in Yellowstone and left us baffled trying to figure out the species. Once we saw them on Junipers and the behavior was in line with what field guides suggested we figured it out. That little splash of rust on the wings is indeed a beautiful marking.

    1. Hi and thanks. They are cool birds and while we don’t have tons in our yard when we are out and about and junipers are plentiful we usually see one perched on top. We should probably be seeing plenty just about now as it does appear the junipers are loaded with berries this winter.

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