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Swainson's or Hermit Thrush? (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
Hi, saw this guy back in Oct 2006 in Yosemite. I passed it on until now because it was very poor quality. But now I'd like to confirm it's identity. To me, I think Swainson's. Habitat seems to be consistent. Hard for me to notice any distinguishing field marks.



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Does seem to have an eye ring, and there is nothing reddish on it. I think you can rule out hermit.

Sue Wright

Well-known member
Hi Matt,

I'd say a Hermit. When I enlarged it the white eye ring was quite visible as was the brown/rust coloured tail.

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Well-known member
When exactly in October, Matt? October is getting on the late side for a Swainson's Thrush. Hermit would be my guess but anything is possible.


Well-known member
Hi there,
My experience of Catharus thrushes is limited to vagrants here in Ireland: two different Grey-cheekeds and one Hermit. Also, I am aware that many 'familiar' species occur in different races on the west coast, some of which can be quite different to those which straggle to western Europe (and would thus potentially throw me off the scent).
Nevertheless, based on what can be seen in this less than clear pic, I am left wondering whether or not Grey-cheeked is a possibility in Yosemite in October? The cold-looking upperparts, relatively plain-looking face etc seem to match that species, though it is hard to be sure based solely on one image.


Well-known member
Seems to have very short primaries (at least on my monitor)...which would be a plus for Swainson's, if it was of the race 'swaisoni'.

However, the tail does seem reddish, as does the crown a pro-Hermit feature...so I am on the fence.

What was the habitat...coniferous forest or mosit woods or swamp?

I think Gray-cheeked despite breeding in Alaska is a rare migrant on the west coast.



I still do not see the reddish color, but I guess it could be either. The slight bit of white on the area under the ear patch might suggest hermit.


Well-known member
Late October is quite late for a Swainson's. Between that and an apparent reddish cast at the top of the tail, I'd vote for Hermit.


In my area, we are in the period when neither is seen. So it is late for Swainsons at least here in Missouri.


Wild, Wild West ................... ern Spindalis
It certainly is late for any other Catharus besides Hermit, but it is indeed a Swainson's. First of all, there is no warm color in the tail and rump, which should immediately raise the alarm. Second, the overall color of the bird is more gray than brown, great for Swainsons (and maybe dull Gray-cheekeds I guess). The distinct eye ring clinches it.

Larry Lade

I'll throw in my vote for Hermit Thrush, due to the grayish cast to the plumage (rather than brownish). I believe we would be able to detect some "bluffiness" around the face of a Swainson's.


registered guy
I'm throwing my hat into the Hermit Thrush ring. I'd really like to see more buffy on the face on a Swainson's, and I can make out just a bit of rusty coloring on the tail. As others have noted, late October is quite late for Swainson's, but good for Hermit. Note to easterners: western Hermit Thrushes are duller than eastern ones!

Neil G.


Well-known member
One more question for Matt- has this photo been tweaked in Photo Shop? Even lightening it would certainly change that way it looks to us on our monitors.


Well-known member
Wow, thanks for the replies. I'll go back to the original raw image in a couple days when I get some free time but I believe this was converted as per camera, with no tweaks. As for seasonality, this is California and it was a very dry year, if that is any matter. With an image editor handy, one can jack up the color saturation. That will often reveal colors that didn't seem to be there.


Maryland USA (he/him)
United States
Gray-cheeked Thrush is quite rare in California, with 17 records as of 1997. I can't imagine that too many more have been seen since then. Western Hermit Thrushes and Swainson's Thrushes are differently colored than eastern birds.

Terry O'Nolley

Cow-headed Jaybird
While it doesn't look like a Hermit Thrush to me (although I live on the East coast), I see none of the tawny coloring to the upper breast and face that should be readily apparent in a Swainson's Thrush.

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