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Hermit Thrush

(Catharus guttatus)
Banded October 16, 1998 Carmel, Indiana

General Information

The Hermit Thrush, a bird of woodlands and boggy forests, is widespread in North America even during the winter months. The other similar thrushes (Veery, Swainson's, Gray-cheeked and Wood Thrushes) completely withdraw from North America during the winter season.

The Hermit Thrush is perhaps best known for its exquisite song of one clear, flute-like note followed by a series of etherial, bell-like ascending and descending tones.


The Hermit Thrush is from 6.5 to 7.75 inches long, and weighs from 23 to 35 grams. It has a brown head and back, but its rump and tail are reddish brown.





Hermit Thrush

Figure 1 - Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

Figure 2 - Hermit Thrush

The white breast is heavily spotted. The eye ring is thin, and the bill is slender.






The flight feathers are brown with a reddish wash.







Hermit Thrush Primary Flight-Feathers

Figure 3 - Hermit Thrush Primary Flight-Feathers

Hermit Thrush Greater Coverts

Figure 4 -Hermit Thrush Greater Coverts

The buff edges, tips and shaft streaks on the greater coverts indicate that this individual is a young bird probably fledged this year.





The Hermit Thrush has 10 primary flight feathers. The 10th primary, seen here as the short feather in the top center, is reduced in size, about the same length as the alula feather covering part of my index finger (upper left).




Hermit Thrush 10th Primary

Figure 5 - Hermit Thrush 10th Primary

Hermit Thrush Rump & Tail

Figure 6 - Hermit Thrush Rump & Tail

The distinguishing field mark of the Hermit Thrush is its reddish brown rump and tail. Its habit of raising and lowering the tail after it alights is a characteristic behavior useful to identify this bird in the field.



From the side, the heavy spotting on the breast, the thin eye ring, head and back and the reddish rump and tail are all readily observed field marks.




Hermit Thrush

Figure 7 - Hermit Thrush

Nesting Behavior

The Hermit Thrush breeds in mixed woodlands and moist coniferous forests of Canada, the extreme Northeastern USA and mountainous regions of the western USA. A cup nest of grass, bark strips, mud and weeds is built by the female on or near the ground. From 3 to 6 eggs incubated by the female, hatch in 12 to 13 days. Both parents care for the young who leave the nest in about two weeks.

Banding Recoveries

The Bird Banding Lab web site reports that between 1955 and 1997, a total of 156,664 Hermit Thrushes were banded. Of these, 364 have been recovered, a recovery rate of 0.23 %. Banding studies show that the Hermit Thrush can live up to 7 years in the wild. They are short to long distance migrants that winter in the Southern and western US into Central America as far as Guatemala.

If you should recover a banded bird, please report the band number to the Bird Banding Lab by calling 1-800-327-BAND.

Conservation Status

Hermit Thrushes consume large numbers of insects such as beetles, ants, caterpillars, grasshoppers and crickets as well as snails, earthworms, and fruits of pokeberry, blueberry, raspberry and mistletoe.

Populations across North America appear to be increasing.

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