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Hermit Thrush

Catharus guttatus

The Hermit Thrush breeds in coniferous or mixed woods across southern Alaska, and Canada from British Colombia and the prairie provinces and east to the Atlantic shores of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and including the Great Lakes and much of New England in the USA. The intermountain zone of the western United States will also host a breeding population of these birds. Some areas of Arizona and New Mexico host a year-round a resident population. In winter these birds will stay along the Pacific coastal zone of the USA, and from the desert southwest east to the Atlantic coast near New Jersey and south into central Mexico. They may be one of the most widely distributed forest-nesting migratory birds in North America.

Many birders, including myself, will struggle to distinguish Hermit Thrushes from other birds in the Catharus genus, especially the Swainson’s Thrush. One feature I’ve found that helps me differentiate these two birds, is the tail color. The tail color of the Swainson’s Thrush is nearly the same as its upper back, but the Hermit Thrush’s tail has a reddish tone that contrasts with its brown back. In winter, only the Hermit Thrush remains in the USA, while the Swainson’s Thrush migrates further south into Mexico, Central and South America to stay for the winter.

My encounters with Hermit Thrushes have come from all across California, but I’ve also met them in southern Nevada, Arizona and the Big Bend region of Texas. As with other members of the thrush clan, they often pose with their bills held high.

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