Hermit thrush a year-round resident in parts of NM - Albuquerque Journal

Hermit thrush a year-round resident in parts of NM

Hermit thrush a year-round resident in parts of New Mexico. (Cathryn Cunningham/Journal)

The hermit thrush is a fairly common bird that can be seen throughout New Mexico and most of North America.

This thrush is 6.75 inches long with a light brown back, pale underbelly, some rust color on the wings and tail, and distinctive bold dark spots on the upper breast. It has a pale eye-ring and a relatively short pointed beak. It is similar in shape to the American robin but smaller.

Hermit thrush a year-round resident in parts of NMHermit thrush populations can vary in size and color based on regions in North America. The thrush we see in the interior Mountain West are a bit larger and grayer overall, with less rust color in the wings and tail than other hermit thrushes.

One thing all hermit thrushes have in common is that they raise and lower their tail while flicking their wings when foraging for food. This is one of the best ways to identify a hermit thrush.

In New Mexico, the hermit thrush is a year-round resident in the central to southern region of the state, a summer resident in the northern region and a migrant in the eastern region.

It can be found in a variety of habitats including northern boreal forests, deciduous woodlands and high elevation mountain forests. It prefers open habitats within forests, edges of pastures and forest roads.

This thrush is not commonly seen in most backyards in urban areas except during spring and fall migration. The hermit thrush does not eat birdseed but providing a bird bath or other water feature, and planting berry-producing plants are your best bet to lure this cute thrush into your yard.

I usually spot at least one each spring and fall scooting around on the ground in my Albuquerque backyard.

The hermit thrush forages on the ground for food. Its foods include insects such as beetles, ants, caterpillars and flies. The hermit thrush uses its feet to shake grasses to get insects. This is called “foot quivering.” In winter, when insects are in short supply, the hermit thrush also eats wild berries.

Like many other birds, in winter, the hermit thrush will form mixed flocks with chickadees, titmice and brown creepers to search for food.

Last winter when hiking in the Sandia Mountains east of Albuquerque I came upon a mixed flock of birds foraging.

Mary Schmauss is the owner of Wild Birds Unlimited (albuquerqueeast.wbu.com) in Albuquerque. A lifelong birder and author of “For the Birds: A Month-by-Month Guide to Attracting Birds to your Backyard.”

 

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