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Hermit Thrush

Catharus guttatus

Length: 6.75 inches Wingspan: 11.5 inches Seasonality: Migrant
ID Keys: Pale underparts with dark spots, brownish upperparts, distinct light eye ring, reddish brown tail and rump.

Hermit Thrush - Catharus guttatusHardier than many of the other thrushes, the Hermit Thrush is usually the earliest spring migrant and latest fall migrant of the similar thrushes that move through South Dakota.  They can be distinguished from the similar Swainson's Thrush and Grey-cheeked Thrush by their distinctive reddish rump and tail.  They also possess a distinct light/white eye-ring.  Hermit Thrushes are known for their beautiful, haunting song, with several unique musical phrases with slight pauses in between.


Nearly any kind of wooded habitat during migration and in the winter.  Prefers conifer or mixed-forest during the breeding season.


Hermit Thrush primarily feed on insects in the summer months, also earthworms, spiders, and occasionally small vertebrates.  They often feed heavily on berries during the winter.


Often forages on the ground, as well as low in vegetation, searching for insects and berries.  They will also occasionally hover and glean insects from foliage or branches, or grab berries while hovering.  Hermit Thrushes often have a "nervous" look as they flick their wings and slowly pump their tail.


Non-breeder in South Dakota. On their breeding grounds, the nest of a Hermit Thrush is most often placed in a well-protected location on the ground, such as at the based of a conifer tree that provides overhead cover or under a dense shrub. They will also sometimes place their nests low in a shrub or tree, particularly in the western part of their North American range. The female builds a cup-shaped nest, constructed of grasses, weed stems, twigs, leaves, and other plant material, generally with mud, mosses, and lichens on the outside of the nest. The female lays between 3 and 6 eggs, and she alone incubates them. The male will generally bring food to the nesting site however, both for the female and the young when they hatch. The young hatch after about 12 to 14 days, and fledge from the nest about 12 days after hatching.


The song of a Hermit Thrush is a series of beautiful, musical phrases, with pauses in between each phrase. They also have a short tsik call, and other vocalizations that are most often heard around the nest site.

1Click here to hear the song of a Hermit Thrush

2Click here to hear the various calls of a Hermit Thrush

3Click here to hear a "wheezy" call of a Hermit Thrush


Summers throughout much of Canada, the western U.S., the Great Lakes region, and the northeastern U.S.  Winters in the southern U.S., near the west coast, and points south.  Hermit Thrushes migrate earlier in the spring and later in the fall than most other thrushes, as they are better at dealing with colder weather.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Hermit Thrush sightings

Similar Species:

Hermit Thrush are similar in size and overall structure to several other thrush species that migrate through the state or are found here in the summer. Plumage patterns too have similarities to several species. The following species represent those most likely to be confused with Hermit Thrush. Note one characteristic that differentiates the Hermit Thrush from all of the species listed below...Hermit Thrush are early migrants, appearing quite a bit earlier than most other migrant and summer Thrush species.

Conservation Status:

Hermit Thrush are found across a very broad geographic area, and are common in many parts of that range. Recent systematic surveys indicate overall populations are rising. The IUCN thus considers the Hermit Thrush to be a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

1) BirdWeb - Hermit Thrush

2) WhatBird - Hermit Thrush

3) Audubon Guide - Hermit Thrush

Photo Information:

October 13th, 2008 - Beaver Creek Nature Area near Brandon, South Dakota

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Hermit Thrush photos.

Audio File Credits:

1Doug Hynes. Recorded on June 30th, 2011 in Newfoundland. Original recording and information available from xeno-canto.

2Christopher McPherson. Recorded in Hillsborough County, New Hampshire on August 9th, 2020. Original recording and information available from xeno-canto.

3Ed Pandolfino. Recorded in Colusa County, California on April 14th, 2014. Original recording and information available from xeno-canto.

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Hermit Thrush - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon migrant in the eastern part of the state, rare in the west.  Accidental summer visitor in the Black Hills, and accidental in the winter.

Additional Hermit Thrush Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Hermit Thrush 1 - Catharus guttatusHermit Thrush 2 - Catharus guttatusHermit Thrush 3 - Catharus guttatusHermit Thrush 4 - Catharus guttatusHermit Thrush 5 - Catharus guttatusHermit Thrush 6 - Catharus guttatusHermit Thrush 7 - Catharus guttatusHermit Thrush 8 - Catharus guttatusHermit Thrush 9 - Catharus guttatus