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Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrush

The ethereal, flute-like song of the Hermit Thrush has inspired poets such as Whitman and Burroughs. It has been called the American nightingale. This shy forest dweller sings at dawn and dusk. Its song stops me in my tracks, gives me goose bumps, and reminds me how truly blessed is my life. All the Catharus genus- the brown thrushes- look alike. They are about seven inches long with brown backs and brown- or black-spotted chests. The Hermit Thrush is identified by its complete white eye ring and reddish rump and tail. Its behavior makes it easy to identify. When it lands, it slightly lowers and raises its tail and gives a soft chuck note. It also habitually flips or twinkles its wings. Its song is distinguished from other thrushes by the way it begins with a long, single note.

The Hermit Thrush is the only Catharus thrush commonly seen here in winter but I was surprised to learn that our winter birds migrate north to breed. Others arrive in spring, to breed here, migrating from Central America so different birds are present in winter and summer.

They build cup-shaped nests in small trees or shrubs. The female lays four green-blue eggs and incubates them. They normally have two broods per season. They forage for bugs, largely beetles, ants and caterpillars, either on the ground or gleaned from plants. They also eat elderberry, mistletoe, raspberries, and the occasional salamander.

First published MCAS The Whistling Swan July 2011
Hermit Thrush photo uncredited