Hermit Thrush

The small unassuming birds with big shiny eyes lurking in the understory of the far Northern forests, the Hermit Thrush are widely known for their hauntingly beautiful melancholy songs.

About Hermit Thrushes

The activities of these birds are at their peak during the summers and they migrate southwards during the winters. Hermit Thrushes are more compact and stockier than the Thrushes from the genus, Catharus which includes 4 other similar species; Veery, Swainson’s Thrush, Gray-cheeked Thrush, and Bicknell’s Thrush.

Hermit Thrushes can be confused with similar species, especially Swainson’s Thrush, Bicknell’s Thrush, and Wood Thrush. But the rich brilliant color of the upper body, a specific patter of the spots on the breasts, and a reddish tail set them apart from the other species and help in identifying them.

The song that these birds are well known for is pretty different from the other bird songs. It sounds flute-like and the analysis of the notes reveals that it is related to harmonic simple integer pitch ratios making it sound more like human music than just a mere bird song. The songs of Hermit Thrushes have the capability to evoke emotions and express a melancholic undertone, which brings them the title of “the finest sound in nature”.

A songbird that makes sounds that resemble human music is particularly interesting. Isn’t it? So, let’s learn more about these birds with majestic voices.

● Hermit Thrush Photos, Color Pattern, Song
● Hermit Thrush Eating Behavior, Habitat
● Hermit Thrush Range and Migration, Nesting


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Hermit Thrush Color Pattern

Hermit Thrushes particularly have a very bright and fascinating color pattern. The back of these birds is solid rich brown in color. Theor small head is the same color as the back. The under-parts of these birds are pure white with very fascinating reddish-brown dots on the breast fading out till the belly. The bill is blackish with a hint of yellow and the tale is rather brownish with a warm undertone of red. The bulgy round eyes of these birds are pure black and shiny and on looking closely a very pale and thin ring can be seen around the eyes.

Description and Identification

These birds can be easily identified because of their song. The hauntingly beautiful song can make anyone notice it and the notes can be easily identified apart from other song birds.

Other than that, the brilliant brown back and the distinctly white under-parts are very easy to spot. Especially the reddish-brown dots on the throat and breast area adds up to the overall identifiable features.

Hermit Thrushes are mostly found in forest openings or along trails. In the winters, they can be spotted near berry-bearing plants.

Hermit Thrush Song

Deemed as the finest sound in nature, the song of Hermit Thrushes resembles the music that comes from a flute as the notes resemble human music to some extent. The song of these birds is described widely as “oh holy holy, aah purity purity, eeh sweetly sweetly.” The beautiful haunting song starts with a whistle and ends with a softer echo-like note. Hermit Thrushes pause between each phrase of this 15 seconds long mournful melancholic song in the summer days. These birds also sing a whisper-like song that is extremely faint, in the springtime.

The most frequently heard call by the Hermit Thrushes is the attack and escape signal that sounds like a low pitched, tchup or quoit and the danger alarm that mostly sounds like a Cedar Waxwing’s “eeeeeee”. The Adults tell the younger ones to stay still with a two-syllable “chuck-lisp”.

Other calls include a rising ‘byob’ sound like a canary or a kitten. The females make a quit-quit sound while frequently rearranging their eggs and when two adults meet they do a quick ‘pweet-pweet’ as a greeting.

During territorial conflicts or displays, these birds can make sounds by snapping their bills and whistling sound with their flapping wings. Their feet can produce a sound like a rattlesnake while they scratch vegetation to forage food.

Hermit Thrush Size

Hermit Thrushes are relatively smaller than an American Robin and larger than a Song Sparrow. These birds are pretty chunky but more compact and stockier than other varieties of American Thrushes.

Hermit Thrushes are 5.5 to 7.1 inches (14-18 cm) in length and have a wingspan of 9.8-11.4 inches (25-29 cm). These chunky birds weigh approximately 23-37 grams (0.8-1.3 oz).

Hermit Thrush Behavior

These birds are ground foragers and thus hop and scrape dried leaves while foraging for food. Perching low on the ground on fallen logs, leaves, and shrubs, they often wander to the forest openings. Before flying away, these birds flick their wings or their tails.

While foraging on the forest floor, Hermit Thrushes often hop more than staying still, peering at the ground. While foraging, these birds pick up dry leaves with their bill and shake the grass with their legs to look for insects. During winters these birds are spotted foraging along with other species of birds like Chickadees, Kinglets, Titmice, and Brown Creepers.

While courting, the male bird chases the female in circles, and then the pair adopts a slower flying pace and pattern after a day or two.

What do Hermit Thrushes Eat?

Hermit Thrushes are primarily insectivores and the insect diet of these birds includes beetles, caterpillars, bees, ants, and flies. They also occasionally eat some small amphibians and reptiles like frogs and salamander etc. In winters, when the insects are scarce, these birds adapt more of a berry diet and eat wild berries.

Hermit Thrush Habitat

Hermit Thrushes have a range of habitats including boreal forests of the far North, mountain forest, and deciduous forests. They are most frequently spotted in forest openings like trails, pond edges, mountain glades, or areas that partially open up because of fallen trees. In winters these birds migrate to lower elevations with pine forests, broadleaf evergreen, and deciduous woods. These birds are spotted near berry plants in winters as they adapt to a berry diet during the cold months. In Mexico, these birds have been found near streams and urban lawns.

Range and Migration

Hermit Thrushes are more tolerant of cold weather than other Thrushes. Their range includes Canada, Southern Alaska, and the Northeastern and western United States.

During the winters, being cold tolerant these spot-breasted birds are the only Thrushes that have a chance to be found in the United States. Most of these birds migrate southwards to places with lower elevations during winters. With the exception of West Coast birds up to southern British Columbia, most Hermit Thrushes winter in the southern part of the United States, or in Mexico, with some reaching as far south as Guatemala.

Hermit Thrush Lifecycle

Hermit Thrushes live for about 8 to 10 years. The female birds build the nest and lay clutches of 3-8 eggs. These eggs are bluish in color, often spotted with brown. These eggs are approximately 0.8-1.0 inches in length. The female incubates the eggs alone and the period of incubation is 11 to 13 days. The chicks hatch in a helpless condition
with closed eyes and just a few tufts of dark gray down. The nestling period for these chicks is 10-15 days before they finally leave the nest. The brood number for these birds is 1-2 per breeding season.


Hermit Thrushes nest on the ground or low vegetation beneath conifers and berry-bearing shrubs. The nests are mostly in more open areas like near berry and fern thickets, pasture edges, and forest roads. The nests are usually below eye level but can be up to 20 feet high.

The birds in the west of the Rocky mountains nest off the ground whereas the ones on the East side nest on the ground.

Hermit Thrushes make a cup-like nest. The female builds the nest herself. The nest cup is usually made from pine needles, grass, leaves, and bits of wood with mud and lichens as bindings on the outside. The female then lines the inside of the nest with finer vegetation and willow catkins. The nest takes 7-10 days to be built. A finished nest measures around 4-6 inches across, and the cup is 2-3 inches wide and 1-2 inches deep.

Anatomy of a Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrushes are chunky, stocked, and compact. The neck is small and the head is almost triangular. The bodies of these birds are fairly round with full breasts. The tail is small. Bills of the Hermit Thrushes are pointy and thin to facilitate catching insects. Legs are pretty thin. The eyes of these birds are dark, round and bulgy that stands out well on its brown-white body.

Final Thoughts

Hermit Thrushes are the official birds of the state of Vermont. These birds aren’t just any regular birds but they also hold a lot of cultural value. Deemed as America’s Nightingale, these birds and their melancholy song is seen as something very special to America. Walter Whitman construes the Hermit Thrush as the symbol of American
voice, poetic or otherwise. There have been numerous poems written about these birds and even the name of the Former Canadian indie-rock band Hermit Thrush was basically the reverse of the bird’s name.

Though most Thrush species are of low concern, Global warming has affected the number of these birds as a decline has been recorded in the population of Thrushes. But among all the others, only Hermit Thrushes have shown a slight increase in numbers again which is a positive statistic and proof of these birds’ adaptability and resilience.


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Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Hermit Thrushes

The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing Hermit Thrushes are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.

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Hermit Thrush Stickers

Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Hermit Thrush. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.

Bird Feeders For Hermit Thrushes

There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.

Best Bird Houses For Hermit Thrushes

There are many types of bird houses. Building a bird house is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 bird houses have become our favorites. Getting a bird house for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these bird houses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.

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