Townsend’s Solitaire is approximately 8 to 9.5 inches (20 to 24 cm) long, with a wingspan of 14.5 in (37 cm); it weighs approximately 34 g. The bird has a short, thick, blackish bill; a white eye ring; and gray plumage with a buffy wing stripe and edges of the flight feathers. The tail is long, tapered when shut, and edged with white. Juveniles are mottled gray and white. It has some similarities to the Northern Mockingbird, particularly as to the tail, however its dark underparts, shape, size, and behavior are not similar.
Habitat and Distribution
This solitaire ranges from southern Alaska, British Columbia and Alberta south to northern Zacatecas, preferring montane woodlands. During winter, it may move in search of food to lower elevations, including the Great Plains, northern interior Mexico, and even desert oases.
It feeds primarily on berries and insects. The Solitaire is a specialized North American bird since its diet in winter consists almost entirely of the fleshy cones of the Juniper bush.
Townsend’s Solitaire usually lays 3 to 4 eggs that are grayish-white with brown dots or splotches concentrated at the larger end. The nest resembles that of other solitaires: a cup of fine plant material on or close to the ground.
Calls and Songs
Its song consists of loud, melodious flute-like rising and falling phrases with low, husky notes interspersed but no distinct pattern and a slightly mechanical quality. The call is a squeaky eeek or clear, soft whistle heeh.