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Advice for identifying Townsend’s Solitaire

Townsend’s Solitaire, adult. December in Los Alamos County, New Mexico. Photo by Brian E. Small
Townsend’s Solitaire, adult. December in Los Alamos County, New Mexico. Photo by Brian E. Small

I was 11 years old, a wildly avid birder, eager to find everything I could. On a cold December morning, I walked into a grove of evergreens in a Kansas park a few miles from my parents’ house. Search as I might, I could find only a single bird in that grove, alone but beautiful: a Townsend’s Solitaire.

The name “solitaire” is singularly appropriate. While other species of thrush often form flocks (and the flocks of robins or bluebirds may be very large), solitaires seldom gather in groups of any kind. In fact, their aggressively solitary nature is noticeable at all seasons, and it’s one of the best-studied aspects of their behavior.

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Kenn Kaufman

Kenn Kaufman

Kenn Kaufman is an expert birder and naturalist, a talented artist and photographer, a world traveler, and the author of many books about birds and other wildlife. His column “ID Tips” appears in every issue of BirdWatching. Kenn is also a field editor for Audubon Magazine and a contributor to Birds and Blooms. His work first appeared in Birder’s World (now BirdWatching) in April 1988. Visit his website, Kaufman Field Guides.

Kenn Kaufman on social media

Brian E. Small

Brian E. Small

Brian Small is a Los Angeles-based bird and nature photographer whose photos appear in the “ID Tips” column in every issue of BirdWatching. His work has been published in Time, The New York Times, Audubon, Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation, and many other publications. His photos also illustrate many field guides, including Kenn Kaufman’s Birds of North America, a series of state bird identification guides published with the American Birding Association, and his own Eastern and Western photographic field guides to the birds of North America published in 2009 with author Paul Sterry and Princeton University Press.

Brian E. Small on social media