Birds – Hermit Thrush

(Turdus aonalascbkoe pallasii)

Called also : SWAMP ANGEL; LITTLE THRUSH

Length—7.25 to 7.5 inches. About one-fourth smaller than the robin.

Male and Female—Upper parts olive-brown, reddening near the tail, which is pale rufous, quite distinct from the color of the back. Throat, sides of neck, and breast pale buff. Feathers of throat and neck finished with dark arrow-points at tip; feathers of the breast have larger rounded spots. Sides brownish gray. Underneath white. A yellow ring around the eye. Smallest of the thrushes.

Range—Eastern parts of North America. Most common in the United States to the plains. Winters from southern Illinois and New Jersey to Gulf.

Migrations—April. November. Summer resident.

The first thrush to come and the last to go, nevertheless the hermit is little seen throughout its long visit north. It may loiter awhile in the shrubby roadsides, in the garden or the parks in the spring before it begins the serious business of life in a nest of moss, coarse grass, and pine-needles placed on the ground in the depths of the forest, but by the middle of May its .presence in the neighborhood of our homes becomes only a memory. Although one never hears it at its best during the migrations, how one loves to recall the serene, ethereal evening hymn ! ” The finest sound in Nature,” John Burroughs calls it. ” It is not a proud, gorgeous strain like the tanager’s or the grosbeak’s,” he says; ” it suggests no passion or emotion—nothing personal, but seems to be the voice of that calm, sweet solemnity one attains to in his best moments. It realizes a peace and a deep, solemn joy that only the finest souls may know.”

Beyond the question of even the hypercritical, the hermit thrush has a more exquisitely beautiful voice than any other American bird, and only the nightingale’s of Europe can be compared with it. It is the one theme that exhausts all the ornithologists’ musical adjectives in a vain attempt to convey in words any idea of it to one who has never heard it, for the quality of the song is as elusive as the bird itself. But why should the poets be so silent? Why has it not called forth such verse as the English poets have lavished upon the nightingale ? Undoubtedly because it lifts up its heavenly voice in the solitude of the forest, whereas the nightingales, singing in loud choruses in the moon-light under the poet’s very window, cannot but impress his waking thoughts and even his dreams with their melody.

Since the severe storm and cold in the Gulf States a few winters ago, where vast numbers of hermit thrushes died from cold and starvation, this bird has been very rare in haunts where it used to be abundant. The other thrushes escaped because they spend the winter farther south.