Hermit Thrush is one of five similar thrushes in the genus Catharus. Though they look alike, they're also quite easy to tell apart using careful observation and accounting for your location and time of year. For instance, Hermit Thrush is the only one of these species that lives in the U.S. in winter. Swainson’s Thrush has a bolder, buffy eyering, more rounded spots on the breast, and no contrast between the color of the tail and the back. The Veery is entirely warm reddish-brown (again, no contrast between tail and back), and has weaker breast spotting. Wood Thrush has bold, black breast spots, so distinct that you can make out each individual spot. They have a bold white eyering and are warmer reddish-brown above, and are noticeably larger than Hermit Thrush. Gray-cheeked Thrush and Bicknell's Thrush are uncommon in many areas, even within their far northern breeding range. They are much grayer overall, with an indistinct eyering and very plain face.
There are three main groups of Hermit Thrushes. Birds in the Pacific states tend to be smaller, thinner billed, with dusky brown upper bodies and grayish flanks. In the interior mountain West, they are bigger, thin billed, and grayer overall with larger spots and less rufous in the wings. Eastern birds are medium sized and thick billed. They are richly colored, with a buffy wash on the flanks and under the tail.
Hermit Thrushes rarely visit backyards and generally do not visit feeders. However, during migration, they often forage on the ground or eat berries in yards with trees or shrubs.
Find This Bird
Look for the Hermit Thrush in forest openings or along trails. This species spends winter and summer in different parts of the country, so check the range map to know when to go looking for one. In spring and summer, you'll likely hear their mournful, flute-like song, oh, holy holy, ah, purity purity eeh, sweetly sweetly long before you see them. In winter they are frequently near berry-bearing plants.