Plight of the Song Thrush

Song thrush

Familiar Wild Birds {1800's}
Familiar Wild Birds {1800's}

Notes from a Lancashire Countryman.

Hark how blythe the throstle sings,

He is no mean preacher.

come into the light of things,

Let nature be your teacher.

William Wordsworth.


These words by Wordsworth were applied to the song thrush Turdus philomelos-philo, indicating beloved and melos indicating the song thrush. beloved thrush. The species name and the words above show how this bird has endeared itself to man.

The upper parts of its plumage is of a warm brown colour with a golden brown 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 in flight. This species is smaller than the darker plumaged mistle thrush but a little larger than the winter visiting redwing with which it is often confused.

The song thrush is regularly seen in gardens where it tosses dead leaves in search of invertebrates. The characteristic stance holding itself upright on tall legs , give the appearance that the bird is always alert. In common with its relative the blackbird they also have a characteristic way of cocking their heads to one side as they listen for earthworms.

Gardeners will be aware that the main stay of their diet is snails. They return time and 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 slug and snail pellets do not repay the bird for its services, many die through secondary poisoning, the toxic gradually building up in its 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 nor it seems, acquired the ability of removing them from their shells. In time when there is a dearth of food available the song thrush often looses out to its larger and more aggressive relative the blackbird.

At the start of the new year they begin to sing their clear repetitive notes so familiar to many people, notes that have inspire poets such as Wordsworth for centuries. The song is performed from high in a tree in order to mark out their territory for the coming season. If the weather is not severe {as it is this year} 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 say that the nest of the song thrush may 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 comprised of twigs, moss, hay, and such like materials, consolidated with mud. The interior is quite smooth and hard with no lining save a plastering of mud or cow dung, which seems a very hard bed for the tender naked chicks.

The nest is usually placed in a bush or the fork 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 in an allotment. However, these were thought to be second or even third brood nests. The eggs are nearly as unmistakeable as the nest being of a beautiful bright blue colour, scantily spotted with well defined black spots. These spots vary in number and distribution but heavily spotted eggs very rarely occur.

On the other hand pure blue eggs without any spots have been recorded and in some cases the spots may have been brown instead of black. The number that form the clutch is generally from 4-6. Incubation takes 13-14 days and the female carries out much of this task. The young fledge when they are about 14 days old even earlier if they are disturbed. and 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 supply available to them during the summer. between July and August breeding usually comes to an end( although there are records of occupied nests being discovered in late September and rare cases of nests being encountered in October).

During September and October the birds feed on the copious amount of berries available from nature's larder, as they put on extra weight in readiness for the coming winter months. The song thrush populations suffer greatly during severe weather and competition from blackbirds for any available food intensifies. It remains to be seen during this winter's atrocious weather how the population fairs in the UK.

Any losses would be worrying for the bird is already placed as a Priority Species of conservation concern in the U.K. This is due to population declines of 73% on farmland and 49% in woodland since the 1970s. Conservation organisations are working hard implementing a Species Action Plan to reverse these declines. Gardens and the wider countryside will be a poorer place without our beloved song thrush.

The hub will be updated when figures are released later in the year, which will show how the species has coped during this severe weather.

Worrying Times for the Song Thrush.

This favourite garden and woodland bird is under threat in the U.K. Photograph courtesy of Tony Wills.
This favourite garden and woodland bird is under threat in the U.K. Photograph courtesy of Tony Wills.

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Comments 4 comments

D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

2uesday-thank you too, for reading and for your kind comments.


2uesday profile image

2uesday 6 years ago from - on the web, I am 2uesday.

Your hubs always have lots of information presented in an easy to read and an enjoyable style. I love the photo that goes with this and look forward to reading more of your hubs in future. Thank you.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Darlene Thank you for reading. Your comments mean a great deal to me. Best wishes to you.


Darlene Sabella profile image

Darlene Sabella 6 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

Oh how I love the way you write, you words are like poetry, I love this bird and it's a great article to educate all of us about how everything on Mother Earth, has it's perfect place, and there is enought room for everyone and everything. Thank you for your tender heart.

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