Hermit Thrush

Hey guys, welcome back. Today is the first of many thrushes that pretty much look and act exactly the same. This one is, in my experience, the most common of them. The Hermit Thrush is widespread, found throughout North America from Alaska, down to southern Mexico. Like most thrushes, they are most commonly seen on the ground, foraging for insects, worms, grubs, sometimes even lizards.

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Hermit Thrush, Central Park, NY

As I mentioned, they look very similar to other North American thrushes, especially the Swainson’s, Gray-cheeked, and Bicknell’s thrushes. The Hermit Thrush, though, is one of the easiest ones to tell apart from the pack. All the mentioned species are brown above, and white (or slightly off-white) underneath, with a series of spots that are darker at the throat area, and fade to very light at the belly. The trick with the Hermit Thrush is the color of the rump and tail area. You’ll notice that they are a reddish brown here, whereas the other species are a duller brown throughout. The Hermit Thrush has a definite “two tone” thing going on. Now, of course, this means you need to actually be able to get a good look at them, but if you do, you’ll be able to ID them! In fact, when I see a thrush, that’s the first thing I look for; the change from dull brown back to reddish brown tail.

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Hermit Thrush, Central Park, NY

All of these thrushes have beautiful, melodic songs. And the Hermit Thrush is no exception. Only thing is, I’ve never heard one. Ever. I’ve seen literally dozens of Hermit Thrushes, but I’ve never heard one. How can this be? Well, if you look at their range map, you’ll notice the “winter” range border runs at a diagonal from just south of St. Louis (where I currently live) up to around Akron (south of where I grew up), and then east to New York City (where I worked and lived for many years.) OK, so? Well, most birds sing to attract mates, and most (not all) birds don’t sing (or at least they don’t sing often) in winter, because they aren’t looking to pair up. Most birds wait until they’re at or near their breeding grounds to sing. And the Hermit Thrush is one of them. So despite them being common in all the places I’ve lived, I’ve never seen them near (or in) their breeding grounds, and hence, never heard them sing!

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Hermit Thrush, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Jamaica, NY

I think that’ll about wrap it up for today. Next up is another brown bird that kind of looks like one of its close relative; the Winter Wren! See you all then!

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