English and Scientific names:

Townsend's Solitaire

Number of individuals: 

One, age and sex unknown

Locality: LOUISIANA: 

Cameron Parish

Specific Locality:

"Willow Island," about 6 mi. E of Cameron, just E of former Recreation Center site

Date(s) when observed:

28 October 2007 (Sunday of LOS Fall Weekend)

Time(s) of day when observed:  

About 1:30 PM

Reporting observer and address:

Steven W. Cardiff
Museum of Natural Science
119 Foster Hall
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA  70803-3216

Other observers accompanying reporter who also identified the bird(s):


Other observers accompanying reporter who independently identified the bird(s):


Light conditions (position of bird in relation to shade and to direction and amount of light):

Excellent; I was facing north, bird flew in from the WSW and then landed due north of my position in full sun.  Early PM sun high and to the south just over my left shoulder as I was facing north.  Clear skies, low humidity, moderate NE wind on sheltered south side of live oak woodland.

Optical equipment: 

Leica 10 X 50 Ultravid binocular, fairly new and in good condition.

Distance to bird(s): 

30-50 feet

Duration of observation:

30 seconds


Mature live oak woodland with dense weed understory, scattered hackberry, honey locust, etc.

Behavior of bird: 

I was trying to relocate a Western Tanager that had been seen about 30 minutes earlier by Donna Dittmann et al.  I was standing on the south side of the live oak woodland facing north, about 30-40 ft. from the south side of a clump of 40 ft. tall live oaks.  The intervening space between me and the tree line to the north was open and unobstructed, covered by waist high weeds.  Donna had wandered off out of view to the west under another large clump of live oaks, and other birders who had been there when we arrived had just departed.  I had only been standing there for a minute or so when I detected a bird flying in from the WSW (to my left and a little behind me).  When I first saw it the bird was about 40 ft. away and angling NE, passing within about 30 ft. of me at its closest approach and then landing about 50 ft. away directly in front of me (north) in a swath of dead canopy branches in the live oak clump.  I instantly recognized that it was a Townsend's Solitaire the first moment I saw it in flight and I shouted "solitaire" towards Donna before the bird landed.  After the bird landed I looked at it with my binoculars and then shouted again towards Donna.  I could hear Donna respond and start running towards me, but the bird quickly flushed from its perch and disappeared out of view northeastward behind the live oaks.  After Donna arrived and I had composed myself (about 5 minutes elapsed time), we moved to the east to the end of the trees where there begins a long open treeless expanse, and then we moved back west hoping that the bird was still in this relatively isolated area of oak woodland.  After a fairly thorough search we could not relocate the solitaire, so we decided to drive down to the east end of Willow Island where there is another patch of live oak woodland in hopes that the bird had continued moving east and not more inland/northeast.  A search of this area was also fruitless, so we went back to the west end and continued searching there for another 30 minues or so to no avail.  My gut feeling is that the bird was "on the move" and that I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.


When I first saw the bird flying in with my naked eye, it was only about 15 ft. off the ground and in full sun against a dark backdrop of live oaks to my west.  I could see that it was about kingbird sized, mostly uniform medium gray, with a proportionately long tail, short bill, a broad tan wing stripe across the middle of the secondaries and primaries, and another tan-colored patch at the base of the primaries.  As the bird moved to my north and swooped up to land in the dead live oak branches, I could see some white on the outer tail feathers and got additional looks at the wing pattern.  While the bird was perched with its back to me, I could see the double tan patches on the otherwise dark folded flight feathers.  It turned its head and I could see that it had a short, thin, broad black bill and a conspicuous contrasting white eyering.  The perched bird otherwise appeared uniformly plain gray with a dark eye, a proportionately large, rounded head, fairly long primary projection, and a long square-tipped tail.  Size and shape-wise the bird was rather similar to mimids, Myiarchus, etc.  The bird held perfectly still and remained in a fairly vertical posture while perched except to move its head to the right to look back at me.  Becasue the bird was facing away from me, I could not see the legs and feet, but the impression was that the tarsi were relatively short because the bird seemed "pressed down" close to the branch while perched.  I was not looking through my binoculars when the bird flushed, but with my naked eye I could once again see the tan colored wing markings and some white in the outer tail feathers.


did not vocalize.

Similar species:

A pretty distinctive species and not much else to confuse it with.  Gray Catbird is darker gray, lacks wing markings, etc.  Other mimids have breast streaking, pale eyes, and/or white wing patches.  Other thrushes, female bluebirds, etc., have different wing patterns, breast spotting, blue in flight feathers, shorter tails, etc.  Any superficially similar tyrannids lack wing pattern, are not so uniformly gray, lack white in outer tail feathers, etc.

Photographs or tape recordings obtained?

unfortunately, none

Previous experience with this species: 

This is a common bird in the West, where I have seen hundreds, possibly thousands over the years in California, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, etc.  I have collected and prepared numerous specimens.

Identification aids:


This description is written from: 

Memory, 10 AM on 29 October 2007

Are you positive of your identification? If not, explain: 


Yes, 100%


Steven W. Cardiff

Date and time: 

10 AM, 29 October 2007