The Song Thrush
The song thrush is a common bird in most gardens across Britain. They are a red listed bird due to its decline over the years. There are around 1.1 million pairs of song thrushes, which have 2-4 broods a year. The population is now half the size it was in the late 1960's. Their decline was the result of farming with pestcides, a change in the climate and also land drainage. The effect of land drainage meant that there was a reduced availability of damp soils of which invertebrates were fed on by the song thrushes!
Surburban and urban habitats have shown the greatest level of decline since 1995. Over roughly the same period we have seen farmland and woodland populations show around 27% recovery. In the earlier part of the year, song thrush pairs look for dense cover which is provided by ivy or thick greenary. They will then start to make their nest from items such as moss, grass and small twigs. The thrushes line their nests with saliva. Making the nest this way has got warming advantages which helps keep the eggs to the right temperature and it also helps keeps control over nest parasites.
The eggs of a song thrush are a bright blue colour, with a few brown spots around it. The clutch size is around 3-5 eggs which take 13-14 days to incubate. Song thrushes only lay one egg a day and only then when the last egg is laid, incubation can start. Once the chicks have hatched, it then takes around 13-14 days until the chicks are ready to fledge. They can leave as easly as nine days old if the nest gets disturbed, but they do stay near by under cover for a few days. Both parents will feed the chicks once they are hatched, while they learn to handle food for themselves. While the female prepares for the next nesting effort, the male then takes over and looks after the fledglings.
Song thrushes most important food is the invertebrates which live under the soil. Earthworms are a vital part of a thrushes diet, being eaten more through December and March. These birds also eat snails and have now found a great technique to get inside the shell. They will get hold of the snail with its beak and bang it against a rock until it snaps. In the late spring they take advatnage of the extra food and find caterpillars rather attractive snacks, but when fruit then becomes available in the autumn and the early winter, thrushes will make the most of these seasonal fruits, such as the berry producing shrubs like the Barberry and the common Holly tree.
There is a small number of UK song thrushes which fly over and winter in Spain, Portugal and France. They can also be found widespread across most of Britain and Ireland during the winter and summer months. They have been recorded breeding in places such as northern and central Europe, Asia and also Russia. During the winter, song thrushes can be found throughout the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean.
The song of the song thrush is a rather loud call. They will normally sit up high in the trees and sing as loud as they can. Their song is a strong confident sounding rhythm made up with repeated phrases. The close family member, the mistle thrush, has a completley different song which is higher in pitch and no verse is the same. These two birds often get mixed up due to their similar markings.
Although these two birds are very smiliar, they do have some seperate distinctions. The song thrush is smaller than the blackbird, whilst the mistle thrush is larger than the blackbird. The mistle thrush will also stand more upright and rather proud looking. Another tell tale sign is that the song thrushes love for snails! They will eat these more the winter when food is harder to find.