Hermit thrushes (Catharus guttatus) typically live on the forest floor, especially around the forest edges and openings, where they hop around while foraging in the leaf litter for insects. Rarely do they visit yards except during migration when they will forage in yards with trees and shrubs. Although we have some trees and shrubs in our yard, it is situated amid acres of pasture. Not often does a hermit thrush pay us a visit.
The hermit thrush is one of five brown-backed thrush species in North America. Its underparts are pale with dark brown spots on the throat and smudged spots on the breast, a thin, white eyering and a reddish tail.
There are thirteen subspecies of C guttatus divided into three subspecies groups: Lowland Pacific, Interior Western Montane and Northern. Hermit thrushes are found throughout most of North America in the summer. With so many subspecies hermit thrush identification, particularly in the field, is difficult and problematic.
Mid to long-distance migrants, most brown-backed thrushes winter in the tropics. The hermit thrush is more hardy than the other brown-backed thrushes and is the one most likely to be seen in the winter.
If startled from the ground, a hermit thrush often perches low and stares at its observer. While doing farm chores Leonard noticed this hermit thrush hopping around the leaf litter and alerted me. I obviously disturbed the hermit thrush as I stepped outside. It perched on some nearby temporary fencing and watched me for a while before disappearing.
Here near Lookout CA (Modoc County) we experienced a severe drought during the last year. With recent rains Leonard and I are noticing many unusual avian visitors.