This species account is dedicated in honor of Carol Sisler, member of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Administrative Board.
"Moving toward the upland again, I pause reverently as the hush and stillness of twilight come upon the woods. It is the sweetest, ripest hour of the day. And as the hermit's evening hymn goes up from the deep solitude below me, I experience that serene exaltation of sentiment of which music, literature, and religion are but faint types and symbols." (John Burroughs in Bent 1949: 143)
With spotted breast and reddish tail, the Hermit Thrush lives up to its name. It is a quiet and unobtrusive bird that spends much of its time in the lower branches of the undergrowth or on the forest floor, often seen flicking its wings while perched and quickly raising and slowly lowering its tail.
This thrush is one of the most widely distributed forest-nesting migratory birds in North America. Its extensive breeding range includes the northern hardwood forest, as well as most of the boreal and mountainous coniferous forest areas north of Mexico. In migration, the species moves southward and spreads out to winter over much of the southern United States, through Mexico to Guatemala. It is the only species of Catharus that winters in North America, switching from a breeding diet of mainly arthropods to a wintering diet heavily supplemented with fruits.
A highly variable species in color and size, the Hermit Thrush's morphological characteristics and plumage have been well studied: up to 13 different races were recognized by Phillips (1991); 8 were recognized by the American Ornithologists' Union (1957).
For such a widely distributed species, surprisingly little is known about basic demographic characteristics such as life span, basic breeding biology and factors that influence reproduction and survival, and fidelity to breeding and wintering areas. Even the well-known song has been little studied. Since Bent's (1949) life history of the Hermit Thrush was published, research has focused on the ecological isolating mechanisms of the North American Catharus thrushes (Veery [C. fuscescens], Swainson's Thrush [C. ustulatus], Bicknell's Thrush [C. bicknelli], Gray-cheeked Thrush [C. minimus]) and the Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina). Despite several attempts to validate the systematics of the Hermit Thrush, little consensus exists and more study is needed.
Help author an account about this species from a Neotropical perspective.