Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Hermit Thrush

This sweet little bird is a Hermit Thrush. It is not as large as a Robin, but is in the same family. The white eye ring is one of it's identifying features. We live in it's winter range and only see it in the winter months. It spends it's summers in Canada and the Rocky Mountains and breeds there.

The tail is noticeably redder than the back. You can see it a little in this photo. That is another field mark.

These photos were taken in different years, but in the same spot. There are a couple of species I can see pretty reliably under the same conditions. When we have a snowfall, there is a pine tree at the top of the drive that will usually keep the ground clear of snow if not too much has fallen. That is where I see the Hermit Thrush and often Bluebirds.

Shorter wings are another field identification of this thrush. They will sometimes slowly cock their tail as this one has done. I have never figured out what it is on the grass that attracts the Hermit Thrush as well as other birds. Dark-eyed Junco, White-throated Sparrows, Titmice and other small species will gather under this tree and pick around on the ground.

Smudgy spots on the breast that fade near the belly are another field mark. It is the only brown backed thrush that can be seen in the U.S. in the winter months.

I planted a little "island" of shrubs at the top of the drive when we first moved here more than twenty years ago. I thought the pine tree was a dwarf variety.  Wrong! It is probably fifty feet tall now. There was already a winged sumac at this site which is really not an attractive plant. I left it, however, because I knew it would attract birds to it's berries (actually called 'drupes') in winter. When snow covers the ground, it is a pretty sure bet you can see birds like this Hermit Thrush.

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