SONG THRUSH--Turdus philomelos. Priority species of conservation concern

Hark how blythe the throstle sings,

he is no mean preacher,

come into the light of things,

let nature be your teacher.

                                      WILLIAM WORDSWORTH.

The above words by William Wordsworth were applied to the song thrush Turdus philomelos. The species name of philomelos derives from philo indicating beloved and melos indicating a thrush -A beloved thrush. The species name and the words above show how this bird has endeared itself to man.

Below --photograph courtesy of Magnus manske {Richard} Creative Commons Share Alike.


The upper parts of the plumage is of a warm brown colour with a golden flush to its flanks and sides of its breast. The small spots speckle the breast which is paler. These spots sometimes elongate to become streaks. Its face is marked by a light eye ring and throat. The orange buff under wings are distinctive when in flight. This species is smaller than the darker plumaged mistle thrush but a little larger than winter visiting redwing with which it is often confused.

In relation to its body size the wings are medium to short as is the tail. The neck is short,the bill medium short, legs small to medium. The flight is more direct than that of the mistle thrush. It hops or runs. Frequently stands with its head cocked to one side as it listens for worms, as do their cousins the blackbird.

It is a regular visitor to gardens where it tosses dead leaves in search of invertebrates.  The characteristic stance holding itself upright on tall legs, giving the bird the appearance of always being alert.

Gardeners will be aware that the main stay of the birds diet is snails. They return time and time again to the same rock, stone or paving flagstone which they use as an anvil on which to break open the shell. The bird will break open the shell by gripping the lip or the soft "foot" of the snail. It then holds its head to the left or to the right and repeatedly smashes the shell on the anvil until it cracks open.I have observed the bird wiping the snails exposed body along the grass of the lawn in order to remove any fragments of the shell remaining on the soft body. This task completed it consumes the snail.

Because they eat large numbers of snails they are welcomed by most gardeners. However, those gardeners that use snail and slug pellets do not repay the bird for its services, many die through secondary poisoning, the toxic gradually building up in the birds body. This habit of eating snails helps the birds to find much needed moisture during hot weather..Thus it is somewhat surprising that other members of the thrush family have not taken to eating snails, not it seems, acquired the ability of removing  them from their shells. In times when there is a dearth of food available the song thrush often looses out to its larger and more aggressive relative the blackbird.

Below--the larger more aggressive blackbird.

Courtesy of Tony Wills CC BY-SA 2.5 License.


At the start of the year they begin to sing their clear, repetitive notes so familiar to many people, notes that have inspired poets, such as Wordsworth, for centuries. the song is performed from high in a tree.

photograph by Dal

Nest and eggs continued

Its the birds way of marking out its territory for the coming season. If the weather is not severe the birds will have paired up by the end of February and the task of nest building will commence. It is not an exaggeration to state that the nest of the song thrush can be told with your eyes shut; for its plaster lining is enough to identify it. In form it is cup shaped, deep and thick walled. The exterior is quite smooth and hard with no lining save the plastering of mud, or even cow dung, which seems a very hard bed for the tender naked chicks.

The nest is usually placed in a bush  of a tree at a moderate height, not more than a yard or so from the ground. There are records that reveal some nests have been located on the actual ground among herbage and one between cabbages on an allotment. However, these were thought to be a second or even third brood nests. The eggs are nearly as unmistakeable as the nest being a beautiful bright blue colour, scantily spotted with well defined black spots. These spots vary in number and distribution but heavily spotted eggs rarely occur.

Below  chicks in nest-- below the eggs photographs courtesy of Snowman radio { Arjan Haver kamp} Creative Commons Share Alike.


 On the other hand pure blue eggs without any spots have been recorded and in some cases the spots have been marked brown instead of black. The number that form the clutch is generally four to six. Incubation takes place for about 13-14days and much of this is carried out by the female. The young fledge when they are about 14 days old, even earlier if they are disturbed, they become independent in a matter of days.

During May and June the adults continue to breed while the increasing number of independent youngsters gorge themselves on the abundant food supplies available to them during the summer. between July and August breeding usually comes to an end { although there are records of occupied nets being discovered in late September and rare cases of nests being encountered as late as October.}

During September and October the birds feed on the copious amounts of berries available from nature's larder as they put on extra weight in readiness for the coming winter months. Song thrush populations suffer greatly during sever winters and competition with blackbirds and other thrush family members intensifies.

During autumn the thrush family gorge themselves on berries such as those produced by the rowan tree.

Photograph by Dal

Familiar Wild Birds {1800's}

UK conservation 2021

UK- Red listed-due to declines of over 50% in population/distribution over the last forty years or so.

Europe- Species of least concern.

Conservation Issues

Due to losses of more than 50% in population numbers since over the last 30 or so years the bird has become a Priority Species of the U.K. Biodiversity Action Plan.  As a Priority Species they become subject of a{ Species Action Plan    {S.A.P.} . The aim of such a plan is to ascertain the reasons for the decline to formulate  the plan and then to implement it to the birds benefit. The plan is long term and often linked to other S.A.P.s such as the Farmland Species and Farmland Habitat Plan.

Those that love to see and hear this bird will hope the Species Plan will halt the decline and eventually reverse the trend for the countryside and our gardens would be a poorer place without them.

The latest figures on the population size in the U.K. is 1,144,000 territories in 2,000. {source B.T.O.}.

According to the results of the BTO Garden Bird Watch survey  { released in 2012}  which began in 1995, the reporting at that time was that the song thrush was recorded in 32.3% of gardens in 2011 the figure was 15.4% the decline it seems goes on and on.

Typical life span is three years.


Also see Birds via the links banner, in depth articles {Birds of Europe} notes from past ornithologists and other eminent writers. 



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