the song thrush is a migratory bird with spotty brown feathers.

The Song Thrush: An Avian Migrant with Spotted Brown Plumage

GardenBy May 26, 2024

The Song Thrush: An Avian Migrant with Spotted Brown Plumage

The Song Thrush is a migratory bird that is commonly found in Europe and Asia. It belongs to the passerine order and the Turdidae family. The term “song thrush” actually refers to more than thirty species of birds that share similar characteristics. In France, four species of song thrushes are particularly common: the song thrush, the redwing, the fieldfare, and the mistle thrush. Let’s take a closer look at these beautiful birds with spotted brown plumage.

About the Song Thrush

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Turdidae
  • Genus: Turdus (and others)

The name “song thrush” actually refers to several species of birds (over thirty) that all belong to the Turdidae family and the Turdus genus, just like the blackbird. However, other genera are also accepted for some species that live outside of Europe, including Catharus, Hylocichla, Brachypteryx, Zoothera, Nesocichla, Dendrocincla, Amalocichla, Myadestes, Formicarius, and Illadopsis. Nevertheless, all of these songbirds share many similarities that allow for a general description.

The song thrush is known for its spotted brown plumage, although different color variations can be observed depending on the species. Unlike some birds, there is no sexual dimorphism in song thrushes, meaning that males and females have the same plumage as adults.

Physically, the song thrush closely resembles the blackbird, as they both belong to the same Turdus genus. They have similar sizes and silhouettes.

Habitat of the Song Thrush

The song thrush does not have a specific habitat. However, it prefers meadows where it can find food, as well as woodlands, groves, and hedges. Some species, such as the redwing, also venture into gardens and urban green spaces.

A Variable Diet

The diet of the song thrush varies depending on the season. In autumn and winter, these birds primarily feed on berries and small fruits, such as hawthorn, holly, ivy, and mistletoe. As spring and summer approach, their diet becomes more diverse, including earthworms, spiders, snails, and slugs.

Reproduction of the Song Thrush

Several species of song thrushes breed in France, but the redwing does not, as it reproduces in northern countries. The breeding period varies depending on the species. Nesting for the mistle thrush occurs from April to the end of June, for the song thrush from March to the end of August, for the redwing from May to mid-July, and for the fieldfare from May to the beginning of August.

Song thrushes build their nests in trees, usually at heights ranging from 2.5 to 9 meters. The mistle thrush is the only species that nests on the ground, hidden under bushes. Each breeding season, a song thrush can have 2 to 3 broods, with each brood consisting of 4 to 6 eggs. The female incubates the eggs for 12 to 15 days, and the chicks become independent approximately 30 days after hatching.

Main Species of Song Thrushes

There are four main species of song thrushes that can be frequently seen in Europe: the song thrush, the redwing, the fieldfare, and the mistle thrush. Let’s take a closer look at each species to learn how to recognize them.

The Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos)

The song thrush is very similar to the redwing in size, measuring around 23 centimeters in length with a wingspan of 33 to 36 centimeters. It weighs between 65 and 90 grams. The song thrush has a sturdy silhouette and a lighter plumage. Its upperparts are warm brown and uniform, while its underparts are grayish with black spots. Its head has reddish markings or reflections. This species can be found in forests, wooded areas, and gardens of cities, although it prefers forested environments for nesting.

The Redwing (Turdus iliacus)

The redwing is slightly larger than the song thrush, measuring about 25 centimeters in length with a wingspan of around 33 to 35 centimeters. It weighs between 50 and 75 grams. It has similar features to the song thrush, but its plumage is more reddish-brown. The redwing is known for its distinctive red underwing, visible during flight. It is a migratory species that breeds in northern countries and travels to Europe for winter.

The Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris)

The fieldfare is slightly larger than the redwing, measuring around 26 centimeters in length with a wingspan of 40 to 42 centimeters. It weighs between 80 and 145 grams. Its plumage is predominantly gray, with a dull brown back and a yellowish hue on its belly. The fieldfare is known for its rusty red underwing and its spotted breast. It is also a migratory species and can form large flocks outside of the breeding season.

The Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus)

The mistle thrush is the largest of the four species, measuring between 25 and 27 centimeters in length with a wingspan of 42 to 47 centimeters. It weighs between 110 and 140 grams on average. Its plumage is predominantly cold gray-brown on the upperparts, with lighter edges. Its underparts are much paler and spotted with black on the belly. It has a black eye and a blackish beak with a yellow base. The male mistle thrush has a powerful and recognizable song, reminiscent of the blackbird but more monotonous and melancholic. It can be found in open and semi-open areas, as well as lightly wooded areas, but is less comfortable in cultivated areas.

The Song Thrush as a Gardener’s Ally

Like most songbirds, the song thrush can sometimes cause minor issues in the garden. As part of its diet is vegetarian, it may consume small fruits such as strawberries and currants, disturb seedlings, or eat young vegetable shoots. However, it is very helpful in eliminating many harmful insects and mollusks, making it a valuable ally for gardeners. To deter the song thrush from your plantations, protect them and provide berries that it will gladly consume.

Although the song thrush is common, it is unfortunately subject to intense hunting and the effects of climate change. These threats are beginning to have a significant impact on its population.

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I'm Jennifer. My hands are often covered in soil, and my heart is full of passion for nature. Through my writings, I share my personal gardening journeys, tips, and the joy of cultivating both plants and a community of fellow garden lovers. Every plant I grow adds a story to my life, and I love sharing those tales with my readers.