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Bird Watch: Hermit Thrush

By Brian M. Collins
Published: March 16, 2010
Hermit Thrush in April Snows
Photo by Brian M. Collins
Hermit Thrush Nest on Ground
In the eastern parts of its range, hermit thrush nests are built right on the ground. Hermit thrush eggs, like those of its close relative, the American robin, are solidly blue.
Photo by Brian M. Collins
As winter gives way to spring, southern states will say farewell to their hermit thrushes as these hearty, luxuriously feathered friends migrate north through the Great Plains amid surprise snowstorms and freezing rains

Viewed at a distance, the colors of the hermit thrush appear bland, but they tend to spring to life when viewed up close and through binoculars. The hermit thrush is the only thrush in North America with a boldly contrasting red tail, and the rusty red of the tail is often seen as this bird skulks along the forest floor in search of insect prey.

The hermit thrush is wondrously talented in song, especially in the early morning and late evening hours. The summer territorial song of the hermit thrush is an impressive, dreamlike and ethereal music. It is a mysterious, spiraling series of connected notes that echoes through woodlands and floats among windblown leaves.

Hermit thrushes are often birds of conifers, thriving in forests of spruce, fir and pine. They are also likely to be found in mixed deciduous-coniferous forests of maple, aspen, spruce and fir and even make homes in dry and sandy jack pine barrens. In migration, hermit thrushes may show up just about anywhere, flipping leaves over in search of food and eyeing passers-by suspiciously before disappearing into the nearest thicket.

As the leaves green up, take an evening stroll through the great outdoors. Pause and listen for a while and you may hear that dreamy, lolling song. Close your eyes, breathe deeply and let that magical thrush transport you deep into the forest.

If you’re lucky, you’ll drift off to sleep on countless evenings surrounded by the beauty of thrush songs.
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