Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
[Hermit Thrush (see also Dwarf Thrush).]
(State Bird of Vermont)
TURDUS SOLITARIUS, Wils.
PLATE CXLVI.--MALE AND FEMALE.
This, kind reader, is another constant resident in the Southern States,
more especially those of Mississippi and Louisiana, where it abounds during the
winter months, and is found in considerable numbers during spring and summer.
In the lower parts of Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee, it is also observed
during spring and summer; but it becomes scarcer as you advance towards the
Middle Districts, where a few are occasionally seen about the low woodlands of
the Atlantic shores.
Except during winter, this Thrush prefers the darkest, most swampy, and
most secluded cane-brakes along the margins of the Mississippi, where it breeds
and spends the summer, retiring to higher lands during the period when the
alluvial grounds are covered with the water which, during freshets, generally
inundates these low cane-brakes and swampy retreats.
The flight of the Hermit Thrush is performed low over the ground, and in a
gliding manner, as the bird shifts from one place to another at a short
distance. In this respect, it differs greatly from its relative, my great
favourite, the Wood Thrush, the flight of which is more protracted, and is
performed at a greater elevation.
This Thrush is most frequently seen on the ground, where it hops with the
same movements employed by the well-known little Red-breast of Europe, in other
words, before it hops its breast almost comes in contact with the ground, the
tail is a little raised, the wings droop, and after hopping, it runs a few
steps, erects its head, and looks around.
All the nests of the Hermit Thrush which I have found were in every
instance placed lower on the branches of trees than those of the Wood Thrush,
seldom above seven or eight feet from the ground, and sometimes so low that I
could easily look into them. These nests were fixed to a horizontal bough, but
were not saddled upon it so deeply, as those of the Wood Thrush are. They were
smaller, and had no mud or plaster of any kind, but were extremely compact, the
outer parts being formed of coarse dry weeds, and here and there a withered
leaf, the interior composed of a long delicate kind of grass, which is found
growing along the edges of cane-brakes. This grass is arranged in a circular
manner, to the whole extent of its length, and waives the inner part of the nest
of this bird a remarkable appearance of neatness and finish. The female lays
from four to six eggs, of a light blue colour, sprinkled with dark dots towards
the large end. The first set are laid early in April, the second about the
middle of June; for, in Lower Louisiana, this species rears two broods in the
year. The female is much attached to her nest, and glides off silently from it
when closely approached, not, however, unless she thinks herself or her nest
observed. The young run after the parents, on the ground, for several days
after they leave the nest.
As soon as the waters of the Mississippi become so swelled as to overflow
the banks, the Hermit Thrush retires to the nearest hills, and mixes with many
other birds, amongst which the Wood Thrush is preeminent. The former is,
however, easily recognised at once, by its single plaintive note, heard from the
boughs of low trees, on the berries of which it feeds. In fact, its food is
altogether composed of different fruits and berries which are at all seasons
abundant in our woods.
In the Middle Districts the Hermit Thrush is only observed during a few
weeks in the spring and again in autumn. It arrives in the States of New Jersey
and New York between the end of April and the middle of May, generally in a
desultory manner, and, throwing itself into the depths of the forests, there
spends the summer months, frequenting the lowest and most shady thickets. Its
song is sometimes agreeable.
HERMIT THRUSH, Turdus solitarius, Wils. Amer. Orn., vol. v. p. 95.
TURDUS MINOR, Bonap. Syn., p. 75.
LITTLE or HERMIT THRUSH, Turdus minor, Nutt. Man., vol. i. p. 346.
MERULA SOLITARIA, Hermit Thrush, Swains. & Rich. F. Bor. Amer., vol. ii.p. 184.
HERMIT THRUSH, Turdus minor, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. i. p. 303; vol. v.p. 445.
Bill of ordinary length, nearly straight, compressed towards the end; upper
mandible with the dorsal outline a little convex, the tip slightly declinate,
the margins acute, inflected towards the end, slightly notched close upon the
tip; lower mandible slightly convex in its dorsal line, the tip rather obtuse.
Head of ordinary size; neck and body rather slender. Feet rather long; tarsus
longish, compressed, slender, anteriorly covered with a few elongated,
indistinct scutella, posteriorly edged, longer than the middle toe; toes
scutellate above, lateral ones almost equal, the outer connected as far as the
Plumage rather loose. A few longish bristles at the base of the upper
mandible. Wings of ordinary length, the third quill longest, the first very
short. Tail rather short, even, of twelve broad feathers, the shafts of which
project a little beyond the extremity of the webs, as is the case with the outer
Bill dark brown, yellowish towards the base of the lower mandible. Iris
hazel. Feet flesh-colour. The general colour of the upper parts is light
yellowish-brown, changing on the rump and tail into dull yellowish-red. Quills
dusky, margined externally with yellowish-brown. Primary coverts
yellowish-brown, dusky at the end; secondary coverts tipped with yellowish-red.
Under parts greyish-white, the neck and breast spotted with dark brown.
Length 7 inches, extent of wings 10 1/2; bill along the ridge 7/12, along
the gap 5/6; tarsus 1 1/6.
The female differs only in having the spots on the breast somewhat larger,
and the tints of the upper parts rather deeper.
The branches so thickly covered with dull red berries, and upon which two
Hermit Thrushes are seen, belong to a shrub which grows in the swampy recesses
preferred by these birds. Its leaves fall off at an early period, and are of an
ovato-lanceolate form, thin consistence, and deep green colour, their under
surface light grey. The common name of it is Robin Wood. It seldom grows
taller than from seven to eight feet, and all the branches, in a favourable
season, are thickly covered with the berries, on which many birds, besides the
Turdus migratorius, from which it seems to have derived its common name, are
seen to feed.