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Hermit or Swainson's Thrush? (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
Thanks in advance guys - I can never tell them apart..


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I'm not going to claim that I know what this bird is, but here are some features that I notice: there appears to be a contrast between gray flanks and slightly rufous wings; the breast spots are fairly large and conspicuous; the eyering is fairly muted; and there appears to be a dark smudge between the eyering and the pale lore (or is this a shadow?). I don't know if these marks help in this case, but typically they would point us towards Hermit Thrush.

David Lukas


Well-known member
sorry thats the pnly pic from that day out - he didn't sit still for very long :)

so were still unsure then ..Hermit or Swainsons lol


Senior Member
nikovich said:
sorry thats the pnly pic from that day out - he didn't sit still for very long :)

so were still unsure then ..Hermit or Swainsons lol

I couldn't tell on that pic, sorry.
Swainson's for me

the buff on the face/thoat is a Swainson's feature not a Hermit. Hermits are much paler there...

the spotting seems to me to be more Swainson's - smaller spots.


stuart winter

My Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Cups at WHL
The pronounced buff bridge above the lores appears to be visible through the foliage. This is a strong Swainson's feature. In Hermits it is not noticeable. I'd also agree with Tim regarding the breast spotting.

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Well-known member
Hi all,
Despite having no experience of either species, I would lean towards Swainson's based on the head pattern, and also I would expect slightly stronger breast spotting on a Hermit Thrush. It is difficult to say for sure based solely on this one pic, though.



I've done a little more research since seeing so many pro-Swainson's posters. I think my previous opinion of Hermit Thrush is wrong and based on regional bias, combined with a blind-spot in my birding skill. I am an easterner and we almost always see the "olive-backed" variety of the Swainson's Thrush. But you may have a "russet-backed" from Western N. America. They could easily become, or have been, 2 different species. Here are some photo links that illustrate that point.

This photo from Souix Falls looks alot like your bird. But, the spotting is lighter, more like I would expect of Swainson's. I think your bird has darker, bigger spotting. But, I can see this is very close to your bird.

This is the typical "olive-backed" we find in the east. It clearly looks nothing like your photo, rivaling vireos for the intensity of its "spectacles." The superloral and eye ring are extremely bold. There is no hint of red in the wing. The bill is noticeably thicker.

Here are some "russet-backed" in Colorado. They look much more like the bird you have with the same dark spotting and the narrow white eye ring. Some, according to Sibley (Western edition) are redder on the back and wing (your bird), some are browner, like these in Colorado.

Here is another obvious "olive-backed."

So, you probably have a "russet-backed" Swainson's Thrush.
Do let us know where the picture was taken. Canada is a big place to be from. It's amazing what variety exists inside many species between East and West N. America.
Happy to learn something today.
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