Photo: Christina Spann/Great Backyard Bird Count Participant

Hermit Thrush

Catharus guttatus

A more hardy bird than the other brown-backed thrushes, the Hermit migrates north earlier in spring and lingers later in fall than the others; it is the only one likely to be seen in winter in North America. If startled from the ground in the forest interior it often perches low and stares at the observer, flicking its wings nervously and slowly raising and lowering its tail. In summer, its clear, pensive song is heard in forests of the mountains and the north.
Conservation status Numbers seem to be holding up well. Winters farther north than other brown thrushes, less dependent on tropical forest for wintering.
Family Thrushes
Habitat Conifer or mixed woods, forest floor; in winter, woods, thickets, parks. Breeding habitats vary in different regions; included are spruce woods, sphagnum bogs, dry pine woods, second growth in burns with standing dead trees, thickly wooded canyons, mountain forests of spruce and fir. In migration and winter found in any kind of woodland.
A more hardy bird than the other brown-backed thrushes, the Hermit migrates north earlier in spring and lingers later in fall than the others; it is the only one likely to be seen in winter in North America. If startled from the ground in the forest interior it often perches low and stares at the observer, flicking its wings nervously and slowly raising and lowering its tail. In summer, its clear, pensive song is heard in forests of the mountains and the north.
Photo Gallery
  • adult, Pacific
  • immature (1st winter)
  • adult, Interior West
  • adult, Pacific
  • adult male, Eastern
  • adult, Interior West
Feeding Behavior

Does much foraging on ground, picking up insects from leaf-litter or soil; also feeds up in shrubs and trees, often hovering momentarily while grabbing an insect or berry.


Eggs

4, sometimes 3-5, rarely 6. Pale blue or greenish blue, occasionally flecked with brown or black. Incubation is by female, about 12 days.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Young are ready to fly at about 12 days. Usually 1-2 broods per year, perhaps sometimes 3 in south.

Diet

Mostly insects and berries. Feeds on a variety of insects, including beetles, ants, caterpillars, true bugs, grasshoppers, crickets, and many others; also spiders, earthworms, rarely small salamanders. Also eats many berries, especially in winter; diet includes elderberries, pokeberries, serviceberries, grapes, mistletoe berries, and many others.


Nesting

Male defends nesting territory by singing, especially in morning and evening. Nest site for nest varies with region. To the east and north, often on the ground, in a natural hollow on the side of a hummock and well hidden by overhanging branches or surrounding low vegetation. To the west, usually in a tree, especially a conifer, 3–12' above the ground. Nest (built by female alone) is a bulky, well made open cup of moss, weeds, twigs, bark strips, ferns, lined with softer materials such as pine needles, rootlets, and plant fibers.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Migrates early in spring and late in fall; very little overlap in timing of migration with the other brown thrushes. Probably migrates mostly at night.

Download Our Bird Guide App

Migration

Migrates early in spring and late in fall; very little overlap in timing of migration with the other brown thrushes. Probably migrates mostly at night.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Series of clear, musical phrases, each on a different pitch, consisting of a piping introductory note and a reedy tremolo. Call note a low tuck.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Thrushes Perching Birds

Hermit Thrush

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
Zoom InOut

Explore Similar Birds