Alert Status: Red
Identifying Features: Large, colourful thrushes, similar to a mistle thrush in general size, shape and behaviour. They stand very upright.
Average Length: 25 cm
Average Lifespan: 2 years
Average Wingspan: 39-42 cm
Beak type: Insects
Natural: Worms, snails, insects and fruit
How to feed: Unlikely to feed from bird feeders/bird tables
What to feed: In the winter they will feed on windfall fruit for long periods and are often accompanied by Redwings.
Nesting: The nest is cup-shaped and made from grass, moss and twigs, and lined with mud. There are very few Fieldfares breeding in Britain.
Where to see: Along hedges and in fields, particularly hawthorn hedges with berries. Grass fields, playing fields and arable fields with nearby trees and hedges are a favourite place. In severe winters they may come into gardens.
This winter visitor can usually be seen arriving in the UK from September. Each year thousands of fieldfares leave Scandinavia and even Russia to spend the winter in the UK, before flying back for breeding season in spring.
The fieldfare is a common visitor, with more than 600,000 birds typically migrating here each year. However, the number of birds that stay here all year is much smaller. In 2017, just two pairs are thought to have bred in the UK.
Remaining in their breeding grounds until food sources such as rowan berries run out, the fieldfare departs the continent for a milder winter in the UK. Whilst here they enjoy the fruit and berries of our native trees such as hawthorn, holly and juniper. These birds will primarily stick to rural areas, arable fields with hedges and trees nearby is a favourite. In more severe winters when snow covers the countryside, the fieldfare may venture into gardens in search of food.
The fieldfare is a large member of the thrush family – just slightly smaller than the mistle thrush, with bold plumage. It has a blue-grey head with a yellow beak and brown-grey wings. The underparts are mostly white. The breast is an orange tinge with conspicuous black streaks. Males and females are similar in appearance except that the female is duller and browner.
Being a sociable bird, the fieldfare is very often seen in large flocks and it’s common to see redwings amongst them too. If you’re keeping an eye out, look for their very upright posture and determined, purposeful hops and when in flight, listen out for its ‘chacking’ call.
When night falls, fieldfares rely on tall trees and large hedges as secure roosting sites. When roosting together, they will all face the same direction to sleep!
Fieldfares will aggressively defend a food source and chase away other birds if they get too close. They will also dive bomb predators who try to approach their nest, firing poo at them to keep them away!
The fieldfares that leave the UK may not be the same as those that come back the following winter. The BTO’s ringing scheme has shown that some of ‘our’ fieldfares have wintered in continental Europe, in countries such as France.
These birds tend to be nomadic, moving around the country as they use up their food sources. They usually journey south and west across Britain searching for both food and milder conditions.
The Fieldfare’s name originates from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘fledware’ which means ‘traveller of the fields’.
Once historically hunted for food, there is evidence that the Romans enjoyed fieldfares. In Germany they were officially hunted until the early 20th century. One record shows that in the 17th century, approximately 600,000 fieldfares were sadly caught in one season by Prussian trappers!