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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

BirdNote®: Henry David Thoreau and the Wood Thrush

Air Date: Week of

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The Wood Thrush is a small, pot-bellied bird, recognizable by its reddish-brown top feathers and speckled underparts. (Photo: © Greg Miller)

In June 1853, Henry David Thoreau wrote of an enchanting encounter with the Wood Thrush: "This is the only bird whose note affects me like music. It lifts and exhilarates me. It is inspiring. It changes all hours to an eternal morning." BirdNote®’s Michael Stein has more on these awe-inspiring birds.

Transcript

CURWOOD: The two-million-word journal of Henry David Thoreau is full of detailed
descriptions of the nature in and around Concord, Massachusetts. And like many of us who get out into the pine woods at dawn or dusk, the naturalist was especially taken with the song bird called the wood thrush. Here’s BirdNote®’s Michael Stein.

BirdNote®   
Henry David Thoreau and the Wood Thrush

[Wood Thrush song]

STEIN: Perhaps as much as any man, Henry David Thoreau enjoyed his walks in the woods. In June 1853, Thoreau wrote in his journal of an enchanting encounter with the Wood Thrush:
 “The wood thrush launches forth his evening strains from the midst of the pines. [Wood Thrush song throughout quotation] I admire the moderation of this master. There is nothing tumultuous in his song. He launches forth one strain with all his heart and life and soul, of pure and unmatchable melody, and then he pauses and gives the hearer and himself time to digest this, and then another and another … ” *
About a week later, Thoreau wrote again of the Wood Thrush: “This is the only bird whose note affects me like music … It lifts and exhilarates me. It is inspiring . . . It changes all hours to an eternal morning.” **


Wood thrushes thrive in expansive forests, and though they face threats from habitat loss, protected areas offer a home for these inspiring birds. (Photo: © Patty McGann)

[Wood Thrush song]
Wood Thrushes thrive in large expanses of forest. And their numbers have declined as forests have been cut on their breeding grounds and where they winter, in southern Mexico and Central America. Yet nearly half of Wood Thrush pairs have two broods per nesting season, so given a chance, their numbers could rebound. Protected areas like Adirondack Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Ozark National Forest give them that chance.
###
Written by Bob Sundstrom
Song of the Wood Thrush provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by G.F. Budney.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org      June 2018/2019     Narrator: Michael Stein
ID# SotB-WOTH-02-2011-06-05   
Quotations from: Henry David Thoreau “Thoreau and the Birds”. In Hay, John (editor). The Great House of Birds. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1996. p. 69-70. *June 14, 1853 **June 22, 1853
https://www.birdnote.org/show/henry-david-thoreau-and-wood-thrush

CURWOOD: For pictures, flit on over to our website, loe.org.

 

Links

Learn more at the BirdNote® Website

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology | “All About Birds: Wood Thrush”

 

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