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Hermit Thrush

Catharus guttatus ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: TURDIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

An unassuming bird with a lovely, melancholy song, the Hermit Thrush lurks in the understories of far northern forests in summer and is a frequent winter companion across much of the country. It forages on the forest floor by rummaging through leaf litter or seizing insects with its bill. The Hermit Thrush has a rich brown upper body and smudged spots on the breast, with a reddish tail that sets it apart from similar species in its genus.

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Songs

The Hermit Thrush’s beautiful, haunting song begins with a sustained whistle and ends with softer, echo-like tones, described as oh, holy holy, ah, purity purity eeh, sweetly sweetly. It pauses between each phrase, and the song is about 1.5 seconds long. Hermit Thrushes also deliver an extremely faint “whisper song” in spring.

Calls

The Hermit Thrush's most frequently heard call is a low-pitched tchup or quoit to signal attack or escape and a Cedar Waxwing-like eeee when in danger. Adults may tell their young to stay still with a two-syllable chuck and lisp.

Other Sounds

During territorial displays Hermit Thrushes may snap their bills loudly or make a whistling sound with their wings while in flight. Their feet can produce rattlesnake-like sounds as they scratch in vegetation for food.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

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.