SONG THRUSH (Turdus philomelos)


These familiar garden birds fill our hedgerows with their beautiful loud singing during the spring. While some song thrush (or Throstles as they were once called) populations are migratory, the UK populations tend to stay put year-round. Despite being familiar to many of us, the population has undergone steep declines in recent decades and so has been added to the amber list.

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Alert Status:

Amber - 27% increase ↑

Estimated number of UK breeding

pairs: 1.3 million (updated 2016)

Listen to song thrush song:


Song thrushes have brown upperparts and heads which contrasts the pale underparts with brown specks, which sometimes look like upside-down hearts. The pale streaky colour continues on their throat and bib. They have a variable song that includes different phrases, but each phrase is repeated. It looks similar to the mistle thrush but is smaller and has a warmer brown colour.

Average Length: 23 cm

Average Lifespan: 3 Years

Average Wingspan: 33-36 cm

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Song Thrush diet

Song thrushes mainly worms and snails bit will eat fruit as well. They will often visit gardens and feed on the ground, but will sometimes take food from bird tables.

Song Thrush breeding and nesting information

Song Thrushes begin nesting around March, the female builds a cup-shaped nest in a bush or tree from grass and twigs. The compacted mud that lines these nests is a good indication that it’s a song thrush nest. 4 to 6 glossy blue eggs are laid and incubated by the female for 2 weeks, once they hatch the chicks are fed by both parents until they fledge 12-16 days later. They will often produce 2 or 3 broods before the breeding season ends in August.

Threats to song thrushes

Declines in song thrush populations have been widely attributed to changes in agricultural practices leading to a decrease in available food and loss of hedgerows. Drainage of farmland leads to a loss of topsoil full of earthworms. While song thrushes are one of the main carriers of B. garinii (one of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease), it has little impact on the bird. This species is also sensitive to adverse weather conditions, so increasingly unpredictable weather may adversely affect these birds.

How you can help

Provide food and water in your garden for these birds.

Do not use any harsh chemicals in your gardens to remove snails.  

Petition to protect hedgerows, especially those surrounding farmland.  

Fascinating Fact

Song thrushes are one of the few birds that eat snails and have a unique way of getting them. They pick up the snails and smash them against stone ‘anvils’ to get the meat inside.
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BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Turdus philomelos. Downloaded from Accessed: 03/10/2023.

British trust for ornithology (2023) Song thrush | BTO - British trust for ornithology. Available at: Accessed: 03/10/2023.  

Paradis, E., Baillie, S. R., Sutherland, W. J., Dudley, C., Crick, H. Q., & Gregory, R. (2000). Large-scale spatial variation in the breeding performance of song thrushes Turdus philomelos and blackbirds T. merula in Britain. Journal of Applied Ecology, 73–87.  

Peach, W. J., Denny, M., Cotton, P. A., Hill, I. F., Gruar, D., Barritt, D., Impey, A., & Mallord, J. (2004). Habitat selection by song thrushes in stable and declining farmland populations. Journal of Applied Ecology, 41, 275–293.  

Peach, W. J., Robinson, R. A., & Murray, K. A. (2004). Demographic and environmental causes of the decline of rural Song Thrushes Turdus philomelos in lowland Britain. Ibis, 50–59.  

Taragel’ová, V., Koči, J., Hanincová, K., Kurtenbach, K., Derdáková, M., Ogden, N. H., Literák, I., Kocianová, E., & Labuda, M. (2008). Blackbirds and Song Thrushes Constitute a Key Reservoir of Borrelia garinii, the Causative Agent of Borreliosis in Central Europe. Applied and environmental microbiology, 74(4), 1289–1293.  

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