Nature Canada
Photo by Hui Sim

November Calendar Image: Hermit Thrush

The November 2018 Calendar image is taken by Hui Sim, who said the following of the experience leading up to capturing this photo.

This is the third sighting I have had of this elusive but hauntingly beautiful songbird in my friend’s yard, but the first and only time I have seen it on the Scarlet Firethorn, a shrub that, thanks to the great number of reddish/orange berries it bears in the fall and winter, is a big hit with the usual repertoire of wintering birds. No other bird was present during this encounter – and my subject was content to sit there and contemplate its surroundings. The warm yellow tones you see in the background are courtesy of the autumn gold leaves of the neighbour’s weeping alder.

This image truly captures the Hermit Thrush in its natural environment – feeding on berries, its food of choice, before a late fall migration.

The Hermit Thrush is an unassuming bird whose melancholy song can be recognized in forest openings or along trails. During the summertime months the Hermit Thrush lurks in the understories of far northern forests, often in clearings or near the edges of trails. They migrate north earlier in the spring and linger later in fall than the other brown-back thrushes, and as such, is  the only one likely to be seen in winter in North America, most often,near berry-bearing plants, as it is in our cover image!

A Hermit Thrush’s chunky shape is similar to that of an American Robin, differing in size, as it is only slightly smaller. It has a rich brown upper body and smudged spots on the breast, with a reddish tail that is a characteristic that sets it apart from similar species in its genus, such as the Wood Thrush or Swainson’s Thrush.

As a forager, the Hermit Thrush spends much of its time on the ground, picking up insects from leaf-litter or soil. On occasion it can be seen picking up patches of grass and shaking them, to release any insects that may have been hiding in it! Its diet is made up of mostly berries and a variety of insects, including beetles, ants, caterpillars, true bugs, grasshoppers, crickets, and many others!

Hermit Thrushes usually make their nests in and around trees and shrubs, but they can also get more creative! Nests have been found in mine shafts, golf courses and even in cemeteries! It is the males that usually gather food for the nest, while the females feed the nestlings. The nestlings are typically ready to fly at about 12 days.

Unfortunately for bird lovers, Hermit Thrushes rarely visit backyards, and are not generally interested in bird feeders. Our only opportunity to see a Hermit Thrush nearby is, as was Hui’s, before their late fall migration when they forage on the ground or eat berries in yards with trees or shrubs.

Watch to the video below to find out what to listen for, to identify a Hermit Thrush!



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