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Sutro Bird Watcher: The Hermit Thrush

Grab your binoculars!

Do you hear a low, gentle “cluck-cluck” coinciding with the double wing ‘flap-flap’ motion in a medium-sized brown bird on the ground in winter? Do you see a bird with a large eye? Do you see a bird with a richly-colored brown back and a reddish tail that shuffles back and forth on long, slender legs in the leaf letter under the coffee berry shrubs on Mt. Sutro? Yes? The Hermit thrush is in your sights!

The posture of the head, cocked to peer for bugs among the leaf litter, accentuates the beautiful design of the hermit thrush’s shape and coloring. With rich brown spots splashed over the upper breast, fading to grey over rounded flanks, the hermit thrush is a beauty. Field guides will refer to its rich brown back and distinctive reddish tail, a plumage that remains unchanged year-round.

The hermit thrush is the perfect model, dainty and delicate, for an illustration by Beatrix Potter. During the wet of winter months, the hermit thrush forages for bugs and berries on Mt. Sutro and along the Pacific coast from Canada through Baja.

My vivid introduction to the hermit thrush was in summertime when hearing its ethereal song during a quiet afternoon in the high Sierras. The hermit thrush song in mountain valleys sings the soul of the high mountain meadow in summer, a singer known to John Muir one hundred years ago. Thrushes are, by definition, glorious singers.

The forest understory and backyard, urban, fruiting shrubbery is the habitat required by the hermit thrush. This is not a bird that will be attracted to seed bird feeders. The Mt. Sutro Rotary Meadow and nearby vegetation provides food and shelter to the wintering hermit thrush. The rain provides drink and puddles for bathing. Conservation of forest habitat and urban, fruiting shrubbery provides for the wintering needs of the hermit thrush. (FYI, a flock of thrushes is known as a “hermitage” and a “mutation”.)

For more information about the hermit thrush go to:

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