Posts Tagged ‘Catharus guttatus’

Since this week’s posts have been about birds and Native American legends, I looked up photos I took of a Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus) during a hike through the woods near the end of October. The Hermit Thrush is about 7 inches long, and sports an olive-brown back and buff-white breast with dark, round spots. Its rusty-coloured tail distinguishes the Hermit Thrush from other brown thrushes. It is not his appearance, but rather his voice for which the hermit thrush is famous. He is a gifted songster. You can listen to his song on this youtube post.

An Iroquois legend tells how once the Creator brought together all the birds and instructed them to fly high into the sky to retrieve their song. The birds who flew the highest would find the best songs. A small Hermit Thrush sat quietly while the instructions were given. The little bird thought “I will never be able to fly high enough to find the best song.” Instead, the little thrush flew to a nearby eagle, who hadn’t noticed him, and hid himself in the feathers of the eagle’s back. When it was time to start, the eagle took off and rose higher and higher in the sky. The eagle flew over the clouds and beyond. At last, the eagle began to tire, and started to return to earth. At this moment, the little Hermit Thrush hopped off the eagle and, well-rested, continued to fly higher and higher as the eagle turned back.

Soon the Hermit Thrush came to a hole in the sky. Entering the hole, he heard a beautiful song coming from the Spirit World. He stayed and learned the song. When he had learned it perfectly, he started for home, anxious to share his song with the other birds. But when he arrived back on earth, he saw the eagle. The eagle was angry with how the thrush had taken advantage of him. So instead of joining the other birds, the thrush flew deep into the forest, and that is where you can find him now, singing his beautiful song. When he sings, the other birds stop to listen because they know the song of the Hermit Thrush is the song of the Spirit World. So that is why the Hermit Thrush is so shy, and why his song is the most beautiful song of all the birds. You can read this and other stories at IndianLegend.com.

Unlike that of other songbirds, the Hermit Thrush population has remained relatively stable in the last few decades. This may be partly because the Hermit Thrush is one of the few birds who can make use of pine plantations for breeding. Also, the Hermit Thrush winters farther north than many migratory birds, so is less impacted by tropical deforestation. It was nearly November when I spotted my Hermit Thrush. The Hermit Thrush is one of the first thrushes to arrive in spring and the last to leave in autumn. Safe journey, little bird.

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