RING OUZEL (Turdus torquatus)


This thrush is slightly larger than a blackbird and comes to the UK in summer to breed in our upland areas (up to 1200m in the Cairngorms!). The ring ouzel is the only thrush that is not usually present all year round, it arrives in March and leaves in September to spend the winter in Spain and North Africa. However, individuals have been seen in gardens outside of the breeding season, which may be due to increasing winter temperatures. Long-term declines in ring ouzel populations have led to it being red-listed since 2002.

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Alert Status:

Red - number of territories decreased by 43% from 1968-2008

Estimated number of UK breeding

pairs: 7300 (updated 2016)

Listen to Ring ouzel song:


These birds are about the same size and shape as a black bird but they can be told apart relatively easily. Male ring ouzels have black plumage with some white feathers around their body and wings which can give them a scaly look and at the top of their breast they have a white crescent. Females look similar but they can appear slightly more brown and the crescent is a duller cream colour.

Average Length: 23-24 cm

Average Lifespan: 2 Years

Average Wingspan: 28-42 cm

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Ring ouzel diet

Ring Ouzel mainly eat invertebrates and berries and have been known to visit gardens. Creating an insect-friendly garden by allowing areas to grow long and avoiding harsh chemicals will attract these birds to your garden.

Ring ouzel breeding and nesting information

Ring ouzels are solitary nesters with nests being around 200m apart. Breeding begins in mid-April in the UK, the nests are a bulky cup of dried grass, stems, and mosses which are held together with dried mud and built close to the ground in upland areas. 4 eggs are laid in this nest and incubated mainly by the female for 13 days, however, the male will sit on the eggs for short periods. Once hatched they remain in the nest for a further two weeks before fledging. Ring ouzels will sometimes produce a second brood before the breeding season ends in mid-June.

Threats to ring ouzel

While there are clear declines in ring ouzel populations, the reasons for this are not well understood. One suggestion is that increased use of upland areas and therefore increased disturbance could be driving losses during the breeding season. Furthermore, over-grazing of upland areas causes a decrease in cover for nesting sites but also causes direct damage to active nests. Climate change is also thought to have impacted this species with decreased numbers seen after particularly warm summers in their breeding grounds or high rainfall in their wintering grounds. The best breeding sites in the UK are in Scotland where there is extensive coverage of low vegetation, loss of this through wildfire or afforestation is likely to drive further decreases in this species.

How you can help

Reporting sightings of this bird during winter to help understand how its behaviour is changing.

Providing supplementary food and clean water during the summer months.  

Being careful hiking in upland areas and keeping dogs on leads during the breeding season so as not to damage active nests.

Fascinating Fact

Ring Ouzels have a variety of different names around the UK including the Michaelmas thrush in the Southwest due to them passing through in September on their way to their winter grounds.
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Beale, C. M., Burfield, I. J., Sim, I. M. W., Rebecca, G. W., Pearce-Higgins, J. W., & Grant, M. C. (2006). Climate change may account for the decline in British ring ouzels Turdus torquatus. Journal of Animal Ecology, 75(3), 826–835. https://doi.org/10.1111/J.1365-2656.2006.01102.X

BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Turdus torquatus. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/ring-ouzel-turdus-torquatus. Accessed: 21/09/2023.

British Trust for Ornithology (no date) Ring Ouzel | BTO - British Trust for Ornithology. Available at: https://www.bto.org/understanding-birds/birdfacts/ring-ouzel. Accessed: 21/09/2023.

RSPB (no date) Ring Ouzel Bird facts: Turdus Torquatus, The RSPB. Available at: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/ring-ouzel/. Accessed: 21/09/2023.

Sim, I. M. W., Burfield, I. J., Grant, M. C., Pearce-Higgins, J. W., & Brooke, M. D. L. (2007). The role of habitat composition in determining breeding site occupancy in a declining Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus population. Ibis, 149(2), 374–385. https://doi.org/10.1111/J.1474-919X.2007.00655.X

Sim, I., Rollie, C., Arthur, D., Benn, S., Booker, H., Fairbrother, V., Green, M., Hutchinson, K., Ludwig, S., Nicoll, M., Poxton, I., Rebecca, G., Smith, L., Stanbury, A., Wilson, P., & Green, B. (2010). The decline of the Ring Ouzel in Britain. British Birds. 103(4): 229-239

Wotton, S. R., Stanbury, A. J., Douse, A., & Eaton, M. A. (2016). Bird Study The status of the Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus in the UK in 2012. https://doi.org/10.1080/00063657.2016.1159180

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