The Hermit thrush is often called “American Nightingale” because of its melodious calls. I found the best description of their songs in the writing of the legendary naturalist John Burroughs (1866): “This song appeals to the sentiment of the beautiful in me, and suggests a serene religious beatitude as no other sound in nature does. “O spheral, spheral!” he seems to say; “O holy, holy! O clear away, clear away! O clear up, clear up!” interspersed with the finest trills and the most delicate preludes. It is not a proud, gorgeous strain. Suggests no passion or emotion, – nothing personal, – but seems to be the voice of that calm, sweet solemnity one attains to in his best moments. It realises a peace and a deep, solemn joy that only the finest souls may know. Listening to this strain on the lone mountain, with the full moon just rounded from the horizon, the pomp of your cities and the pride of your civilization seemed trivial and cheap.”
There is an interesting legend associated with the Hermit Thrush.
“In bygone days, the birds had no song. Only humans had this melodious gift. The birds would often stop in their flight to listen to their songs, wishing that one day they could also sing tunes like that. One day when the Creator came down to visit the earth, he was enchanted by the songs of the people. But, to his dismay, he noticed that there was deafening silence as he walked through the forest. The birds were also listening to their songs quietly with downcast eyes. The Creator intuitively knew their aspirations. The next day, he summoned a meeting of all the birds. When he asked them if they would also like to sing, he was met with a resounding yes. The Creator told the birds that the next morning at sunrise, they should fly up into the sky as far as their wings would carry them. When they could fly no further they would find their song and the bird which flew the highest flight would receive the most beautiful song. Next morning, all the birds were getting ready to fly, full of excitement. The tiny Hermit thrush wondered how he could fly to that height in the sky. He came up with a plan and swiftly buried himself under the feathers of the larger eagle. Now, all the birds started soaring high in the sky, aspiring for the most beautiful song. Many of them couldn’t keep up and started their descent, each with their particular song. Finally the sun began to set, with only a few large birds continuing their upward climb, vying with each other to fly higher, all through the night. Finally, when the sun rose, only the eagle was still flying and once he realized that he was the sole bird still flying, he returned to earth. The little Hermit thrush was hiding in its feathers all through and as the eagle landed on the earth, it hopped out and started flying. The eagle was too tired to fly again and the thrush flew to the land of the Land of Happy Spirits. When he entered this place, he heard a beautiful song and he stayed there till he mastered the song. Overjoyed with his recent acquisition, he flew back to earth, only to find the eagle staring at him angrily. Overcome with shame, he flew into the woods and hid himself under the branches of trees.”
True to its name the hermit thrush remains a reclusive bird to this day. But sometimes it cannot restrain itself and it continues to serenade us with melodious notes. As Thoreau wrote in his journals in 1852,“The thrush alone declares the immortal wealth and vigour that is in the forest. Here is a bird in whose strain the story is told … whenever a man hears it, it is a new world and a free country, and the gates of heaven are not shut against him.”
Do let the Hermit know what you thin of it!!
Meanwhile you can hear it sing!!