Living Bird Magazine
Hermit ThrushCatharus guttatus
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Turdidae
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.More ID Info
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.
- Zorzalito Colirrufo (Spanish)
- Grive solitaire (French)
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 out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.
- Cool Facts
- Males usually gather food for the nest, while females feed the nestlings. The young birds start by eating bits of larvae, then grasshoppers, moths, and spiders. One Hermit Thrush has been seen trying to give a nestling a salamander more than 1.5 inches long.
- Hermit Thrushes usually make their nests in and around trees and shrubs, but they can also get more creative. Nests have been found on a cemetery grave, on a golf course, and in a mine shaft.
- Hermit Thrushes sometimes forage by “foot quivering,” where they shake bits of grass with their feet to get insects. They also typically begin to quiver their feet as they relax after seeing a flying predator. Some scientists think the quivering happens as the bird responds to conflicting impulses to resume foraging or continue taking cover.
- East of the Rocky Mountains the Hermit Thrush usually nests on the ground. In the West, it is more likely to nest in trees.
- Hermit Thrushes make several distinct calls around their nests. They will sometimes make a rising byob sound similar to a canary call or mewing kitten. Females frequently rearrange their eggs while making quit quit noises. In the morning, two adults meeting near the nest will greet each other with a pweet pweet call.
- Hermit Thrushes are part of a genus (Catharus) that includes four other similar thrushes in North America: the Veery, Swainson's Thrush, Gray-cheeked Thrush, and Bicknell's Thrush. In the northeastern mountains, the Veery lives at the lowest elevations, Hermit Thrushes at middle elevations, and Swainson's Thrushes at high elevations.
- The oldest recorded Hermit Thrush was at least 10 years, 10 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Maryland in 2009. It had been banded in the same state in 1999.