Family Thrushes (Turdidae)

Least Concern

Russet-backed Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)


French: Grive à dos roussâtre German: Zwergmusendrossel Spanish: Zorzalito quemado

Turdus ustulatus


, 1840,

forests of the Oregon = Fort Vancouver, Washington, USA


Until recently considered conspecific with C. swainsoni, which see. Proposed race almae (SE Alaska) synonymized with nominate. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. u. ustulatus (Nuttall, 1840) – Pacific coast from SE Alaska S to N California and N New Mexico; non-breeding Mexico S to Panama.
  • C. u. phillipsi Ramos, 1991 – Queen Charlotte Is (W Canada); non-breeding E & W Mexico.
  • C. u. oedicus (Oberholser, 1899) – SW USA (California); non-breeding W Mexico S to Nicaragua.
  • Descriptive notes

    16–20 cm; 25–45 g. Medium-sized Catharus with olive-brown upperparts with rufous cast, tail slightly redder than back, whitish belly and lower breast,... read more


    Only male sings, producing a pleasing series of a flute-like, upward-spiralling phrases, “wh... read more


    Mainly coniferous forests of spruce (Picea) and fir (Abies) and coastal douglas... read more

    Food and feeding

    Invertebrates and fruit, former mainly in spring (92%) and summer, latter mainly in autumn (64%) and winter. Invertebrate prey largely... read more


    Nests with eggs found from mid-Apr Apr to late Jul, the later nests probably resulting from renesting attempts after earlier failures.... read more


    Medium-distance migrant; entire population migrates to Mexico and Central America. Autumn migration... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Generally abundant, but no estimate of global population numbers. Considerable contraction of range in California in past 100 years,... read more

    Recommended citation

    Collar, N., Christie, D.A. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Russet-backed Thrush (Catharus ustulatus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 23 January 2020).