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Montana Animal Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Veery - Catharus fuscescens

Species of Concern

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S3B

Agency Status
PIF: 2


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Copyright by: The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, all rights reserved.
General Description
The Veery is an 18-cm-long bird with a reddish brown dorsum, white belly, gray flanks, grayish face, small spots (often indistinct) on the breast, indistinct grayish eyering, and straight slim bill. Western populations have a darker dorsum and more breast spotting than do eastern populations.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Veerys differ from other thrushes by having less breast spotting (less distinct and more restricted). They differ from Pacific coast populations of Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus) in having gray, instead of buffy brown, flanks.

Species Range
Montana Range

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Western Hemisphere Range


Range Comments
Veerys breed from southern British Columbia east across southern Canada to Newfoundland, south to Oregon, Colorado, portions of the Midwest, and throughout New England south along the southern Appalachian Mountains to Georgia. They breed in appropriate habitat throughout Montana. They winter in northern South America.

Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations: 1046

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density


(direct evidence "B")

(indirect evidence "b")

No evidence of Breeding
(transient "t")

(regular observations "W")

(at least one obs. "w")


(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Summer Resident. Earliest reported arrival date for Montana is 28 April at the north end of the Tobacco Root Mountains in Madison County, latest departure date is 13 September at Westby, Sheridan County (Montana Bird Distribution Committee 2012). In the Bozeman area, normal migration periods are from 22 May to 1 June and 25 August to 3 September (Skaar 1969). At Fortine, mean date of arrival is 31 May, earliest annual arrivals ranging from 26 May to 2 June (Weydemeyer 1973). At Missoula, average arrival is 23 May and departure is 30 August, with extreme dates of 18 May and 8 September (Hand 1969).

Generally inhabits damp, deciduous forests in the east. Has a strong preference for riparian habitats in several regions, including the Great Plains. Prefers disturbed forest, probably because denser understory is not found in undisturbed forests (Moskoff 1995). In Montana, Veerys are often associated with willow thickets and cottonwood along streams and lakes in valleys and lower mountain canyons (Saunders 1921, Hand 1969, Skaar 1969), icluding the Flathead and Lewistown regions (Silloway 1901, 1903a). It also occupies riparian cottonwood stands along the lower Missouri River (Kroodsma 1973). Along Beaver Creek in the Bears Paw Mountains, Veerys were present in a variety of plant community types (box elder, alder, aspen, cottonwood, and lodgepole pine) so long as willow was a significant component (Walcheck 1969).
Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
  • Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
    How Associations Were Made
    We associated the use and habitat quality (high, medium, or low) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
    1. Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2001, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
    2. Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species’ range and habitat requirements;
    3. Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point database associated with each ecological system;
    4. Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of “observations versus availability of habitat”.
    Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.  In general, species were associated as using an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.  However, species were not associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if point observations were associated with that system.  High, medium, and low habitat quality was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species in the literature.  The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignments of habitat quality.  If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact Bryce Maxell at or (406) 444-3655.

    Suggested Uses and Limitations
    Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.  These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.  Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.  Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.  Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).  Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species’ known geographic range.

    Literature Cited
    • Adams, R.A.  2003.  Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation.  Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.  289 p.
    • Dobkin, D. S.  1992.  Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34.  Missoula, MT.
    • Foresman, K.R.  2001.  The wild mammals of Montana.  Special Publication No. 12.  Lawrence, KS: The American Society of Mammalogists.  278 p.
    • Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998.  Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates.  Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT.  1302 p.
    • Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young.  1999.  Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32.  72 p.
    • Maxell, B.A.  2000.  Management of Montana’s amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species.  Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1.  Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana.  161 p.
    • Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath.  2004.  Amphibians and reptiles of Montana.  Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.

Food Habits
The Veery is primarily a ground forager, with a diet including insects (60%) and fruit (40%), feeding primarily on insects during breeding and on fruit during late summer and fall (Maskoff 1995).

A significant host for the Brown-headed Cowbird in many parts of the range of overlap, which is exacerbated as forests are increasingly fragmented. Cowbirds parasitized 40% of 10 nests monitored in riparian habitat of the Bitterroot Valley (Tewskbury et al. 1998). Breeding density in dogwood and alder along Elk Creek at Lubrecht Experimental Forest (near Missoula) was estimated to be 43.2 pairs/40 ha (Manuwal 1968). Classified overall as uncommon along the lower Missouri River, where it was observed in eight of 21 riparian cottonwood stands (Kroodsma 1973). BBS data indicate significant annual declines in numbers of 4.6% in Montana and 0.9% survey-wide from 1966-2009; there were also significant annual declines in numbers of 1.2% in Montana and 0.3% survey-wide for 1999-2009.

Reproductive Characteristics
Nests are typically on or near the ground, often near the base of a bush or small tree in streamside thickets or swamps. Clutch size is 1 to 5 blue/green subelliptical to short subelliptical eggs (Moskoff 1995). One nest along the Swan River near Big Fork was built about 2 m (6.5 ft) above ground in a hawthorne shrub, another near Big Spring in the Lewistown area was 36 cm (14 in.) above ground at the rim in a willow shrub (Silloway 1901, 1903a). Nests in Montana have been reported with eggs 8 to 29 June, adults tending nestlings 29 June and 1 July (Silloway 1901, 1903a, 1903b, Saunders 1921, Skaar 1969, Montana Bird Distribution Committee 2012)

No management activities specific to Veery are currently occuring in Montana. Veerys are a fairly common cowbird host. Numbers may be significantly reduced in grazed areas and campgrounds compared to relatively undisturbed sites (Saab 1996). However, it may favor disturbed forests where the understory shrub layer is denser than in undisturbed sites. Heavy grazing apears to be more deleterious than light grazing (Mosconi and Hutto 1982).

Threats or Limiting Factors
Preference for large riparian stands and susceptibility to cowbird parasitism make it vulnerable to landscape changes and disturbances (Casey 2000).

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Casey, D. 2000. Partners in Flight Draft Bird Conservation Plan Montana. Version 1.0. 287 pp.
    • Hand, R.L. 1969. A distributional checklist of the birds of western Montana. Unpublished report. 55 pp.
    • Kroodsma R.L. 1973. Breeding bird populations of riverine forests in eastern Montana. Prairie Naturalist 5(3): 40-48.
    • Manuwal, D. 1968. Breeding bird populations in the coniferous forests of western Montana. M.S. thesis. University of Montana, Missoula. 176 pp.
    • Montana Bird Distribution Committee. 2012. P.D. Skaar's Montana bird distribution. 7th Edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, Montana. 208 pp. + foldout map.
    • Mosconi, S.L. and R.L. Hutto. 1982. The effects of grazing on the landbirds of a western Montana riparian habitat. In: J.M. Peek and P.D. Dalke eds. Wildlife-Livestock Relationships Symposium. Forest Wildlife Range Experimental Station, University of Idaho, Moscow. p 221-233.
    • Moskoff, W. 1995. Veery (Catharus fuscescens). In: A. Poole and F. Gill, eds. The Birds of North America, Number 142. The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia and The American Ornithologists Union, Washington D.C.
    • Saab, V.A. 1996. Influences of spatial scale and land-use practices on habitat relationships of breeding birds in cottonwood riparian forests. Ph. D. thesis. The University of Colorado, Boulder.
    • Saunders, A. A. 1921. A distributional list of the birds of Montana. Pacific Coast Avifauna Number 14. 194 pp.
    • Silloway, P. M. 1901. Summer birds of Flathead Lake. Bulletin of the University of Montana, Missoula. Biological Series 1(3). 83 pp.
    • Silloway, P. M. 1903. Additional notes to summer birds of Flathead Lake, with special reference to Swan Lake. Bulletin of the University of Montana, Missoula. Biological Series 18(6):293-308.
    • Silloway, P. M. 1903. Birds of Fergus County, Montana. Press of the Argus, Lewistown.
    • Skaar, P.D. 1969. Birds of the Bozeman latilong: a compilation of data concerning the birds which occur between 45 and 46 N. latitude and 111 and 112 W. longitude, with current lists for Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, impinging Montana counties and Yellowstone National Park. Bozeman, MT. 132 p.
    • Tewksbury, J.J., S.J. Hejl, and T.E. Martin. 1998. Breeding productivity does not decline with increasing fragmentation in a western landscape. Ecology 79(8): 2890-2903.
    • Walcheck, K. C. 1969. Avian populations of four plant communities in the Bearpaw Mountains, Montana. Proceedings of the Montana Academy of Sciences 29:73-83.
    • Weydemeyer, W. 1973. The spring migration pattern at Fortine, Montana. Condor 75:400-413.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • American Ornithologists' Union. 1998. Check-list of North American birds. 7th edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. 829 pp.
    • Bertin, R.I. 1977. Breeding habits of the wood thrush and veery. Condor 79: 303-311.
    • Bevier, Louis R., Alan F. Poole, and William Moskoff. 2005. Veery (Catharus fuscescens). Species Account Number 142. The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology; Retrieved 3/25/2008 from The Birds of North America Online database
    • Dilger, W.C. 1956b. Adaptive modifications and ecological isolating mechanisms in the thrush genera Catharus and Hylocichla. Wilson Bull. 68: 171-199.
    • Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant landbirds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. U.S.D.A. For. Serv. N. Region Publ. R1-93-34. Missoula, Mont.
    • Dobkin, D.S. 1994. Conservation and management of neotropical migrant landbirds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. Univ. Idaho Press, Moscow, Idaho. 220 pp.
    • Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder’s handbook: a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Schuster Inc. New York. 785 pp.
    • Johns, B. W. 1993. The influence of grove size on bird species richness in aspen parklands. Wilson Bull. 105: 256-264.
    • Johnsgard, P.A. 1979. Birds of the Great Plains: breeding species and their distribution. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln. 539 pp.
    • Johnsgard, P.A. 1992. Birds of the Rocky Mountains with particular reference to national parks in the northern Rocky Mountain region. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. xi + 504 pp.
    • Lenard, S.J. Carlson, J. Ellis, C. Jones, and C. Tilly. 2003. P. D. Skaar's Montana Bird Distribution, 6th Edition. Montana Audubon: Helena, MT, 144 pp.
    • Noon, B.R. 1981. The distribution of an avian guild along a temperate elevational gradient: the importance and expression of competition. Ecol. Monogr. 51: 105-124.
    • Saab, V.A. and T.D. Rich. 1997. Large-scale conservation assessment for neotropical migratory land birds in the interior Columbia River Basin. T. M. Quigley, ed. USDA F.S., Pacific NW Research Station. Portland, OR. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-399. 56 pp.
    • Salt, W.R. and J.R. Salt. 1976. The birds of Alberta. Hurtig Publishers, Edmonton, Alberta. xv + 498 pp.
    • Sibley, D. 2014. The Sibley guide to birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY. 598 pp.
    • Stearns-Roger Inc., 1975, Environmental baseline information of the Mount Vernon Region, Montana. January 31, 1975.
    • Stewart, R.E. 1975. Breeding birds of North Dakota. Tri-College Center for Environmental Studies, Fargo, North Dakota. 295 pp.
    • Terres, J.K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 1109 pp.
    • Tubbs, A.A. 1980. Riparian communities of the Great Plains. Pages 419-433 in Management of western forests and grasslands for nongame birds. U.S. For. Serv. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-86.
    • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Migratory Bird Management. 1995. Migratory nongame birds of management concern in the United States: the 1995 list. U.S. Government Printing Office: 1996-404-911/44014. 22 pp.
    • U.S. Forest Service. 1991. Forest and rangeland birds of the United States: Natural history and habitat use. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Agricultural Handbook 688. 625 pages.
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Citation for data on this website:
Veery — Catharus fuscescens.  Montana Field Guide.  Montana Natural Heritage Program and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.  Retrieved on May 25, 2016, from