You may not know what a Veery is, or have any idea of what they look like, but if you live in the northern U.S., chances are that you’ve heard their mysterious and lovely song echoing in the woods—and wondered what it was!
Have you heard that song before? Usually you will hear it in early evening or sometimes on a hot summer afternoon. It’s a beautiful and unmistakable sound of summer!
The Veery is a small thrush—related to robins and bluebirds and other thrushes. They’re about 6 inches long, have pink legs and a longish, thin bill. They feed on insects and fruit and are common in dense, moist woodlands and along the vegetation near brooks and streams.
But getting a glimpse of them may prove difficult. Their reddish-brown upper body has a whitish belly, gray flanks and a gray face and blends beautifully with the forest understory where they scratch for bugs among pine needles and dead leaves.
I’ve heard Veerys singing in my woods for years—it’s one of my favorite birdsongs. My property borders a meandering stream, and between it and my backyard is a deep thicket of pines, ferns, trilliums, lady slippers and other woodland plants. It’s the perfect habitat for Veerys and this is where they live. Once I was very lucky to see these shy birds out in the open in my backyard—and here is how it happened:
The Veerys, their furtive woodland cousins, must have noticed the activity going on. Soon the robins dispersed and two small, brown birds came secretively hopping out of the woods on the left of my yard, heading toward the bird bath. They took cover along the way under my daylilies, spiderworts, gayfeather and other plants along a fence border, and stayed low to the ground in typical thrush fashion. When they got to the bath, it was obvious there were still delicious mealworms to eat. They would take one and scurry back to the protection of the hedgerow and then repeat the process over and over again, plucking the escaping mealworms from the grass each time.
The next morning I was out early with the next small batch of mealworms. I put them in the bath and then hurried back to the porch to wait and see what happened. And I was rewarded! It was only a matter of minutes before the first little brown bird emerged from his hiding place and hopped stealthily toward the birdbath, followed by another, which I assumed was its mate. For several mornings after that, I repeated the process and thoroughly enjoyed watching these elusive and timid little birds. I haven’t put mealworms out for them for a while, but I’ll always love their melodious song that fills the woods each evening.
If you have Veerys in your area and would like to sneak a peak at them on occasion, you may want to offer them live mealworms. But put them near dense cover so these reserved little birds can feel secure and comfortable while they eat. And if you never see a Veery, be joyful that you’ve heard their memorable song!