The Hermit at the Wolves

Top Photo: Looking down at wintering thrush.

Of all the spot-breasted, brown-backed thrushes in North America, the hermit thrush is the one that winters furthest north. If you see a spot-breasted thrush at the museum in winter it most surely is a hermit thrush.

Spot-breasted thrush on wall at Red Wolf Overlook.

Hermit thrushes can switch their diet from insects and small invertebrates to berries in winter, which allows them to spend their winters further north than their relatives. The other thrushes spend their winters in Central and South America, in the tropics.

The hermit thrush pictured here seems to show no fear of humans as it was literally just a few feet from me as I took its photo. It was, and still is, staked out at the Red Wolf Overlook in Explore the Wild.

In some of the images the bird is standing on the wall immediately in front of the main viewing area, while one photo shows the thrush down in the planted area in front of the wall picking fallen juniper berries from the ground.

Note contrast between back color and reddish tail. Also, note juniper berries on ground.

Though you can be fairly certain a spot-breasted thrush this far north in the United States is a hermit thrush at this time of year, these photos give you a sure-fire identification of the species, note the olive-brown back and rusty or reddish tail. Not seen in these photos but evident on live birds is the hermit thrush’s tendency to pump its rusty tail up and down. This behavior is similar to an eastern phoebe, though with less frequency and vigor.

All you need to see to help identify this bird as a hermit thrush is in front of you.

Hermit thrushes can often be found in the vicinity of a favorite fruit source such as the juniper trees at Red Wolf Viewing. Look for them wherever you go hiking in the woods near fruit producing vegetation like cedars (juniper), pokeberry, elderberry, serviceberry, mistletoe and more.

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