Hermit thrush

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Hermit thrush
Hermit thrush qmnonic.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Turdidae
Genus: Catharus
Species: C. guttatus
Binomial name
Catharus guttatus
(Pallas, 1811)

Hylocichla guttata

The hermit thrush (Catharus guttatus) is a medium-sized North American thrush. It is not very closely related to the other North American migrant species of Catharus, but rather to the Mexican russet nightingale-thrush.[2]


This species measures 15 to 18 cm (5.9 to 7.1 in) in length, spans 25 to 30 cm (9.8 to 11.8 in) across the wings and weighs 18 to 37 g (0.63 to 1.31 oz). Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 7.8 to 11.1 cm (3.1 to 4.4 in), the bill is 1.6 to 1.9 cm (0.63 to 0.75 in) and the tarsus is 2.7 to 3.3 cm (1.1 to 1.3 in). It is more compact and stockier than other North American Catharus thrushes, with relatively longer wings.[3] The hermit thrush has the white-dark-white underwing pattern characteristic of Catharus thrushes. Adults are mainly brown on the upperparts, with reddish tails. The underparts are white with dark spots on the breast and grey or brownish flanks. They have pink legs and a white eye ring. Birds in the east are more olive-brown on the upperparts; western birds are more grey-brown.


File:Hermit Thrush in winter.jpg
Taken in southern Ontario during winter

Their breeding habitat is coniferous or mixed woods across Canada, Alaska, and the northeastern and western United States. They make a cup nest on the ground or relatively low in a tree.

Hermit thrushes migrate to wintering grounds in the southern United States and south to Central America but some remain in northern coastal US states and southern Ontario.[4] Although they usually only breed in forests, hermit thrushes will sometimes winter in parks and wooded suburban neighbourhoods. They are very rare vagrants to western Europe. It has also occurred as a vagrant in northeast Asia.[5]

They forage on the forest floor, also in trees or shrubs, mainly eating insects and berries.


The hermit thrush's song[6] has been described as "the finest sound in nature"[7] and is ethereal and flute-like, consisting of a beginning note, then several descending musical phrases in a minor key, repeated at different pitches. It often sings from a high open location. Analysis of the notes of its song indicates that they are related by harmonic simple integer pitch ratios, like most human music and unlike the songs of other birds that have been similarly examined.[7][8]

In culture

Ocala National Forest, Florida 2008

The hermit thrush is the state bird of Vermont.

Walt Whitman construes the hermit thrush as a symbol of the American voice, poetic and otherwise, in his elegy for Abraham Lincoln, "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd,"[9] one of the fundamental texts in the American literary canon. "A Hermit Thrush"[10] is the name of a poem by the American poet Amy Clampitt. A hermit thrush appears in the fifth section ("What the Thunder Said") of the T. S. Eliot poem The Waste Land.

Former Canadian indie-rock band Thrush Hermit took their name from a reversal of the bird's name. It is also shared by the American bands Hermit Thrushes and Hermit Thrush.

The song of the hermit thrush is audible in the "Garden" stage of Super Mario Galaxy for the Nintendo Wii.

A slightly altered song of the hermit thrush was used for the Mockingjay's song in the early scenes of the film The Hunger Games. The hermit thrush's song, as well as the house wren and mourning warbler are all very common in modern-day media.

The character Raymond Tusk identifies the song the hermit thrush when protagonist Frank Underwood meets with him in St. Louis, in the 12th episode of the first season (titled "Chapter 12") of the Netflix television series House of Cards.


  1. BirdLife International (2012). "Catharus guttatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Winker & Pruett, 2006
  3. Thrushes by Peter Clement. Princeton University Press (2001). ISBN 978-0691088525
  4. Hermit Thrush, All about Birds
  5. Brazil, Mark (2009) Birds of East Asia ISBN 978-0-7136-7040-0 page 402
  6. "Hermit Thrush Song". Archived from the original (WAV) on 2007-10-31. Retrieved 2008-07-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Through The Internet Archive)
  7. 7.0 7.1 Brahic, C. (2014-11-04). "Thrush's song fits human musical scales". New Scientist. Archived from the original on 2014-11-04. Retrieved 2014-11-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  9. Whitman, Walt. "When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd". Bartleby. Retrieved 2008-07-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Clampitt, Amy. "A Hermit Thrush". The Academy of American Poets. Retrieved 2008-07-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Works cited

  • Winker, Kevin & Pruett, Christin L. (2006): Seasonal migration, speciation, and morphological convergence in the avian genus Catharus (Turdidae). Auk 123(4): 1052-1068. [Article in English with Spanish abstract] DOI: 10.1642/0004-8038(2006)123[1052:SMSAMC]2.0.CO;2 PDF fulltext
  • Farrand, John & Bull, John, The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds, Eastern Region, National Audubon Society (1977)

External links