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WILDLIFE OF NORTHERN ENGLAND

The Ring ouzel-a bird of the north

The ring ouzel Turdus torquatus belongs to the Passeriformes {perching birds} and placed in the genus Turdus {Thrush} and given the specific name of torquatus indicating a collar and alludes to the white crescent.

 

Ring Ouzel 

Courtesy of Frank Vassens {Belgium} CC BY-SA 2.0 License 

Description of the Ring Ouzel.

 The summer cock is black brown with a prominent white gorget. The juvenile is grey brown with speckled breast. They are similar in shape and size to the common blackbird. The bill is dark yellowish brown. The legs are dark brown.

In relation to their body size the wings are of medium length as is the tail. The neck is short as are the bill and legs. They are 23-24cm  { nine to nine and a half inches} long. The wing span 38-42 cm {15-17 inches} and they weigh 95-130g { three and a half to five oz} .

They are usually seen with head up, tail cocked and wings drooped or just a head and bill appearing above a skyline rock. The flight is direct and impetuous. They hop or run. They may be seen in small family groups after fledging as occurred. They are birds of mountain and moorland, especially wooded valleys, cloughs and hillsides and open moorland.

Historical account

I like to add to the subjects under review an historical account of that subject. In this case the historical account is taken from the book ' The Birds of our Country' by H.E. Stewart printed in 1898. It gives us a chance to see the historical perception of the bird to the writers of that time. In the book this species was also referred to as the Ring thrush, Rock ouzel, Mountain blackbird and the Moor blackbird. Mr. Stewart writes---" It is one of the less common thrushes. It is in fact a local bird, being much more common in the north than in the south of England. The mountain districts are its favourite home, and the heather its breeding place.

"It has however been known to breed in several southern counties of England, among others Leicestershire, Kent, Cornwall and Hampshire, where in 1847 a nest was taken in our kitchen garden at Queenswood, placed in a pear tree on the wall. This is a case which, if a collector in the south should come upon a nest, which he imagines to be a ring ouzels, great care is necessary, as the nest and eggs are so similar in most cases to those of the common blackbird, that without the sight of the parent birds it would be impossible to classify them with any degree of certainty.

NESTING ----- 

Its favoured nesting spot is under the shelter of a projecting rock, or , beneath the edge of an embankment protected by high heather growing around. Generally the nest is placed on the ground but sometimes in a bush, however, it is never far from the ground. The nest ,like the blackbirds, has its lining of mud thickly covered with grass and bents. The outside is very loosely put together. The eggs four to five in number  are pale greenish blue, spotted most thickly at the larger end with reddish brown. They are incubated for around 13 days. The task is undertaken by both parent birds. The young are born blind and covered lightly with down. they rely entirely on their parents for food and warmth. The young fledge in around 14 days.

Another account is taken from the 'Annals of Birdlife' {1890} by Charles Dixon " Amongst the big boulders of rocks on the moors the ring ouzel, fresh from its summer haunts, sits and pipes his wild song, viewing us all the time with suspicious glances".------ " On the moors the ring ouzel shows an inclination to pack. As soon as ever the mountain fruits are ripe these birds congregate to feast upon them, and even wander to the gardens near moors for a similar purpose."

" The ring ouzel, after staying as long as the mountain fruits lasted, has left the more northern moors, staying a few days on the smaller southern heaths such as Dartmoor, but all uneasy to be back to its winter quarters. Many birds of this species are seen in various wild corners of our southern counties, both in spring and Autumn, and a few stray pairs breed in Devonshire and on the Welsh Mountains. But the greater summer haunt of the ring ouzel does not reach south of Derbyshire"

 

Ring Ouzel 

Courtesy of Steve Garvie {Scotland} CC BY-SA 2.0 License

Conservation issues

The Ring Ouzel  winters in South to North Africa and the Middle East. They tend to arrive back in the UK around the end of March. 

There are around 6,900 pairs in Britain during the summer. Numbers have been declining sharply over the last thirty years and in the UK they appear on the Red List of Conservation Concern because Population numbers/distribution has declined by over 50%. In Europe they are not a species of Conservation Concern 

Conservation update--July 2013 The North Yorkshire Moors are proving to be a haven for the ring ouzel and is contributing to halting the decline in their population numbers. The Moorland Association have stated that habitat management, predator control and working with ornithologists have seen the birds thrive.

The North Yorkshire Moors continue to attract the birds and their numbers here have increased steadily. However, on a national basis the next population count is expected to make depressing reading. Spaunton Moor near Kirbymoorside played hosts to 14 nests along with 23 territories, the highest number for 15 years, much of this is attributed to the management of the moor, which favours wildlife. Much of the habitat is managed for Red grouse but such habitat also produces the right conditions for the breeding ring ouzels.

George Winn Darley who is the owner of the 7,000 acre moor and a hands on land manager pays tribute to Kendrick Hutchinson an ornithologist who has spend many years surveying the moor. Read the full article. Click on the Links banner on the right hand side of this page. Scroll down to the Ecologist. Click. Type in search box Ring Ouzels Thriving on Grouse Moors.

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Song thrush.

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Conservation Issues 2012.

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