Wild Profile: Meet the veery

An adult veery perched on a branch against a green background By Lev Frid/Shutterstock

The beautiful, spiralling-note tune of the veery is hard to ignore. Since these songbirds are able to sing two notes at once (because of their specialized voice box, as with a wood thrush), it often sounds like two birds are harmonizing. June is the best time to hear the calls—males don’t begin their melodies until the beginning of the month, unlike other species that start singing earlier in spring.

For a bird with such a lovely song, the veery is pretty nondescript: cinnamon brown with white underparts, medium-sized, and plump. Like other thrushes, they forage on the ground, looking for invertebrates hiding under leaves or in logs. They forage in a jerky, hopping shuffle: hop forward, poke at the ground, hop a little more. Their plumage gives them decent camouflage against the forest floor when they’re not moving. You might not even notice one unless it produces an angry, sharp ‘veerr’ telling you to back off.

Out in the open, you’ll usually spot veeries only because you catch their movements out of the corner of the eye. Turn to look, and they’ll have darted away. Frustrating! At least for a birder or someone who wants to take a decent photo.

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Veeries don’t stick around cottage country for long. A female quickly builds her nest, lays her eggs, and incubates them for 10 to 14 days. Babies grow up quickly: from egg to fledged young veery only takes about three weeks. And by mid-August, veeries can start to migrate back to their tropical winter digs in the Amazon. Not before they bulk up, however. Like other migrating birds, veeries gain weight, with the expectation that they’ll lose it during the long journey south. A veery, for example, can lose 1.3 per cent of its body weight per hour over the course of the trip.

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