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Mistle Thrush

Song Thrush
Both sexes: Warm brown upperparts, creamy yellow throat and breast with speckles.
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The Song Thrush is smaller than either a Mistle Thrush or Blackbird and is less upright when standing.

The sexes are similar with warm brown upper parts, pale buff underparts with dark speckles (which look like arrows pointing towards the head and are often arranged in lines) and a tinge of golden brown on the breast. The belly is almost white with fewer, smaller dark spots than the Mistle Thrush. They have relatively large eyes, as do Robins and other woodland ground feeding birds, and pale pink legs. The bill is brown in colour.

Unlike the Mistle Thrush, the Song Thrush usually flies low, below tree top height, from bush to bush.

Juveniles have pale buff streaks on the back.

Song Thrush
Song Thrush
Nest
Nest
Juvenile
Juvenile

Scientific Name Turdus philomelos
Length 23 cm  (9")
Wing Span 33-36 cm  (13-14")
Weight 70-90 g  (2½-3¼ oz)
Breeding Pairs 990000
Present All Year
Status Red

Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.

Voice

The Song Thrush's song may be repetitive - repeating the same phrase three or four times, as if it liked it the first time and so does it a few more times - but it is clear and flute-like, and is often chosen by people as being their favourite bird song.

They usually sing from a prominent perch.

Robert Browning wrote:

That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
Song

© Jean Roché, www.sittelle.com
Alarm Call

© Jean Roché, www.sittelle.com

Feeding

The Song Thrush's diet includes worms, insects, berries and snails.

The latest research suggests that they eat snails only when the ground has become baked or frozen and they cannot dig out worms, etc. They smash the snail's shell against an anvil (usually a rock). Blackbirds often steal the snail after the Song Thrush has cracked it open.

Song Thrushes often feed under or close to cover, unlike Mistle Thrushes that often feed out in the open.

Nesting

A shady place in a bush or tree is the usual location for the nest, which will be built by the female. The nest is cup shaped and constructed from grass, twigs, and earth. The lining is very smooth and typically comprises mud or dung mixed with saliva.

The smooth, glossy bright blue eggs are spotted with black, and approximately 27 mm by 21 mm. The female incubates the eggs by herself. After the young hatch, they are fed by both parents.

Breeding Starts Clutches Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
March-June 2-4 3-9 11-15 12-16

Movements

Song Thrushes are both resident and migratory. Some birds, especially in northern populations, migrate southwards in the autumn, with southern populations going as far as France, Spain and Portugal. In the winter, the remaining British population is often joined by slightly darker immigrants from Scandinavia and BENELUX.

Conservation

The Song Thrush population is less than half what it used to be and so it is on the Red List.

Evidence suggests that this is not caused by increased predation by hawks or Magpies but through agricultural intensification and changes in woodland management. Agricultural intensification results in a loss of hedgerows and as a result there is less food and fewer nesting sites for birds to raise sufficient broods to maintain the population. Recent woodland management practice has been to remove the shrub layer from woodlands and improve drainage, this leads to less cover for nest sites and harder ground from which the Song Thrush struggles to extract invertebrates, such as earthworms.

The latest surveys suggest that the decline has at least levelled off and may even be reversing.