Alert Status: Red - 49% decline
Identifying Features: Smaller than the mistle thrush and less upright when standing. The breast has arrow shaped spots.
Average Length: 23 cm
Average Lifespan: 3 years
Average Wingspan: 33 - 36 cm
Beak type: Insects
Natural: Worms, insects, berries and snails
How to feed: Ground feeders
What to feed: Fruit, raisins & mealworms
Nesting: Shady place in a bush or tree, constructed from grass, twigs & earth.
Where to see: UK wide; woodlands, parks, hedgerows & gardens
A cold winters day may not seem like the most inviting time to go outside, but it’s one of the best times to see the elusive song thrush. These small, speckled birds are quite secretive during the breeding season, but are more active in winter.
The song thrush is a familiar bird with a warm-brown head, wings and back. Its cream breast is speckled with dark spots, that could be described as upside down hearts. Smaller in size than the mistle thrush and blackbird, it measures around 23cm in length. The song thrush has relatively large eyes, as do robins and other woodland ground feeding birds. Both sexes are similar in appearance, juveniles have pale buff streaks on their backs.
Commonly found in parks, gardens and woodland, the song thrush has a distinct, beautiful loud song with repeating phrases. Often proudly sung from a position of height, such as a chimney pot or a high branch, it’s clear, flute-like song is often chosen as peoples favourite bird song.
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 winter, the remaining British population is often joined by slightly darker immigrants from Scandinavia.
Breeding takes place from March to April. The female will build her cup-shaped nest low down in trees, shrubs and ivy. She uses grass, twigs and moss, lining the nest with mud. This makes their nests quite easy to recognise. Four to six glossy blue eggs are laid and incubated by the female. Both parents feed and tend the young, which leave the nest after twelve to fifteen days.
Song thrushes will eat a variety of foods, such as earthworms, caterpillars, fruit, seeds and berries. However, snails are a particular favourite! When the ground becomes too hard for finding worms, the song thrush will cleverly hit snails against rocks to break their shell, allowing them to get to the soft parts inside. Song thrushes are one of the few British birds to eat snails, and as it prefers to feed under cover, a pile of broken snail shells maybe the only sign of them being nearby.
A century ago song thrushes were regarded as one of Britain’s most common birds, even outnumbering blackbirds.
Though song thrushes can be heard singing at any time of the day, they are not early risers. Generally they don’t join the dawn chorus until blackbirds and robins have already started.
Not everyone likes song thrushes. Their appetite for soft fruit such as strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants makes them unpopular with farmers!
Hunting migratory song thrushes has long been a popular sport in southern Europe. Sadly it remains legal in France and Spain.
Did you know? The song thrush is featured on the West Bromwich Albion FC crest. The name The Throstles, a nickname for the team, was used because the public house in which the team originally used to get changed kept a pet song thrush in a cage.