Merlin Bird Graphic

Merlin Bird ID

Try our free app foriOS | AndroidWeb version coming soon!
Recently Viewed Species

    Hermit Thrush Life History


    Habitat Open WoodlandsHermit Thrushes live in a wide variety of habitats, ranging from boreal forests of the far north to deciduous woods and mountain forests. Look for them in open areas inside forests, such as trails, pond edges, mountain glades, or areas partially opened up by fallen trees. In winter, Hermit Thrushes often occupy lower-elevation forests with dense understory and berry bushes, including pine, broadleaf evergreen, and deciduous woods. In Mexico, they have been seen around streams and urban lawns.Back to top


    Food InsectsIn spring, the Hermit Thrush eats mainly insects such as beetles, caterpillars, bees, ants, wasps, and flies. They also occasionally eat small amphibians and reptiles. In the winter, they change their diet to eat more fruit, including wild berries.Back to top


    Nest Placement

    Nest GroundHermit Thrushes nest on the ground or low in vegetation, often beneath small conifer trees or shrubs. Open spaces near berry and fern thickets, pasture edges, and forest roads are common sites. Birds east of the Rocky Mountains typically nest on the ground, while those to the west tend to nest off the ground in shrubs or tree branches. These higher nests are usually at or below eye level but can be up to 20 feet high.

    Nest Description

    The female builds the nest from grass, leaves, pine needles, and bits of wood, with mud and lichen around the outside. She lines the nest with finer plant materials and willow catkins. The finished nest is 4–6 inches across, and the cup is 2–3 inches wide and 1–2 inches deep. The female takes 7–10 days to build the nest.

    Nesting Facts
    Clutch Size:3-6 eggs
    Number of Broods:1-2 broods
    Egg Length:0.8-1.0 in (2-2.5 cm)
    Egg Width:0.6-0.7 in (1.5-1.8 cm)
    Incubation Period:11-13 days
    Nestling Period:10-15 days
    Egg Description:Light blue, sometimes spotted with brown
    Condition at Hatching:Helpless, with just a few tufts of dark gray down. Eyes closed.
    Back to top


    Behavior Ground ForagerHermit Thrushes forage on the forest floor and will often hop and then stay still, peering at the ground. They sometimes pick up leaf litter with their bills or shake grass with their feet to find insects. When they’re about to fly, they flick their wings or tails. The Hermit Thrush may respond to predators by crouching and pulling back its head. During courtship, the male chases the female in circles, then the pair adopts a slower flying pattern after one or two days. In winter, look for Hermit Thrushes foraging with small forest songbirds such as kinglets, chickadees, titmice, and Brown Creepers.Back to top


    Conservation Low ConcernHermit Thrush populations stayed relatively stable between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 40 million with 66% spending part of the year in the U.S, 75% in Canada, and 33% wintering in Mexico. The species rates a 6 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Hermit Thrush is not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds' Watch List. Like almost all migrant songbirds, Hermit Thrush migrate at night and can be drawn toward transmission towers and skyscrapers, where they die in collisions. Although forest fires are a natural part of many forest ecosystems, they typically result in Hermit Thrushes moving elsewhere for several years while the forest regenerates.Back to top

    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 out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.

    Back to top


    Dellinger, Rachel, Petra Bohall Wood, Peter W. Jones and Therese M. Donovan. 2012. Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

    Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2015.2. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2015.

    Partners in Flight. 2017. Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

    Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, Jr. Ziolkowski, D. J., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon and W. A. Link. The North American breeding bird survey, results and analysis 1966-2015 (Version 2.07.2017). USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center 2017.

    Sibley, David Allen. 2014. The Sibley guide to birds, second edition. Alfred A Knopf, New York.

    Back to top