Adult. Photo: Christina Spann/Great Backyard Bird Count

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
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.
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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.

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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.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Hermit Thrush

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate threats facing the Hermit Thrush

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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