This species is 16 to 20 cm (6.3 to 7.9 in) in length. The wingspan averages at 30 cm (12 in). The Swainson's Thrush body mass can range from 23 to 45 g. They have white-dark-white underwing pattern characteristic of Catharus thrushes. Adults are brown on the upperparts. The underparts are white with brown on the flanks; the breast is lighter brown with darker spots. They have pink legs and a light brown eye ring. Birds in the east are more olive-brown on the upperparts; western birds are more reddish-brown.

Habitat and Distribution

Their breeding habitat is coniferous woods with dense undergrowth across Canada, Alaska and the northern United States, also deciduous wooded areas on the Pacific coast of North America. These birds migrate to southern Mexico and far south to Argentina. The coastal subspecies migrate down the Pacific coast of North America and winter from Mexico to Costa Rica. The continental birds migrate eastwards within North America and then travel southwards via Florida to winter from Panama to Bolivia. Swainson's Thrush has occurred as a vagrant in northeast Asia.


They forage on the forest floor, also in trees. Swainson's Thrushes mainly eat insects, fruits and berries.


These birds make a cup nest on a horizontal tree branch.

Calls and Songs

This bird's song is a hurried series of flute-like tones spiralling upwards. Flight call: clear, spring peeper-like queep.