Austral thrush (Turdus falcklandii)

Also known as: Falkland thrush, Magellan thrush
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyTurdidae
GenusTurdus (1)
SizeLength: 23 - 26.5 cm (2)
Weight95 - 113 g (2)

The austral thrush is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The Austral thrush (Turdus falcklandii) is the most southerly-ranging thrush species (3), occurring in the southernmost parts of South America (2) (4) (5) (6) (7). A relatively large thrush, it has a blackish head which contrasts with its olive-brown to greyish-brown upperparts and buffy-brown underparts. The flight feathers and tail are slightly darker, and the throat is whitish, with dark streaks. The Austral thrush has a distinctive yellow beak, yellow legs and dark brown eyes (2) (3) (4) (6) (7).

The male and female Austral thrush are similar in appearance (2), but the female may be slightly duller and paler, with a browner head (4) (7). Juveniles have heavy pale streaking on the upperparts, while the underparts are buffy-yellow, with dark brown spots (2) (7).

Two subspecies of the Austral thrush are generally recognised: the Falkland thrush (Turdus falcklandii falcklandii) and the Magellan thrush (Turdus falcklandii magellanicus). T. f. magellanicus is distinguished from T. f. falcklandii by its smaller size, colder olive-brown upperparts, blacker head, paler underparts and more distinct throat pattern (2) (4). Some also recognise a third subspecies, Turdus falcklandii mochae, which is larger and paler than T. f. magellanicus (2) (6). However, this subspecies is not generally accepted (2).

The song of the Austral thrush is as a rich series of ‘carolling’ phrases, often repeated several times (2) (4), and that of the subspecies T. f. falcklandii has been described as a plaintive, slow series of whistles and harsh chuckles (2). This species also uses a variety of different calls, including a low ‘huit’ and a harsh ‘wreet’ (2).

The Austral thrush is found in southern South America, in central and southern Chile, southern Argentina, and on the Falkland Islands (2) (4) (5). T. f. magellanicus occurs from Atacama in Chile and Neuquén and Río Negro in Argentina, south to Tierra del Fuego, and on the Juan Fernández Islands, off the coast of Chile (2) (4) (6) (7). T. f. falcklandii is restricted to the Falkland Islands (2), while the proposed subspecies T. f. mochae occurs on Mocha Island, off the Chilean coast (2) (6) (7).

A single individual has also been reported from the South Sandwich Islands, in the southern Atlantic Ocean, representing the only record of the Austral thrush in the Antarctic region (8).

On the South American mainland, the Austral thrush is common in forest and open woodland, along forest edges, in agricultural areas with scattered trees and hedges, and in gardens and parks in urban areas (2) (3) (4) (6) (7). It occurs up to elevations of around 2,150 metres (2).

In the Falkland Islands, this species occupies a range of habitats, including areas of tussac grass, rocky outcrops and open slopes with ferns and diddle-dee (Empetrum rubrum), and bushes and trees around human settlements (2).

The Austral thrush feeds mainly on the ground, and is commonly seen hopping around open lawns and pastures in search of a range of invertebrate prey, including earthworms, snails and insect larvae (2) (4) (6) (7). In the Falklands Islands, it often forages among seaweed cast up on the shore (2). The diet of the Austral thrush also includes fruit and berries (2) (4) (6) (7), and this species is an important disperser of the seeds of plants such as Podocarpus nubigenus (2) (9).

The breeding season of the Austral thrush runs from September to February in Chile, October to November in Argentina, and August to December in the Falkland Islands (2). The nest is usually hidden in dense foliage or in a sheltered rock crevice, and consists of a large, deep cup of grass and roots, walled inside with mud or dung and lined with grass or hair (2) (6) (7). Two or three eggs are laid, which hatch after an incubation period of 14 to 16 days. The young Austral thrushes leave the nest at around 16 to 18 days old, and the adults may begin a second brood as little as 12 to 14 days later. Each breeding pair potentially raises up to three or even occasionally four broods in a season (2).

A common species across most of its range, the Austral thrush has a widespread and stable population, and is not currently considered globally threatened (5). Although it may experience high predation in some areas from introduced predators such as cats, this appears to be counterbalanced by the Austral thrush’s high reproductive rate (2) (5).

There are no known specific conservation measures currently in place for the Austral thrush.

Find out more about the Austral thrush and its conservation:

Find out more about conservation in the Falkland Islands and other UK Overseas Territories:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Christie, D. (2005) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 10: Cuckoo-Shrikes to Thrushes. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Schulenberg, T.S. (Ed.) (2010) Austral thrush (Turdus falcklandii). In: Neotropical Birds Online. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca. Available at:  
    http://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/portal/species/overview?p_p_spp=549196
  4. Ridgely, R.S. and Tudor, G. (1989) The Birds of South America: The Oscine Passerines. Volume I.University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas.
  5. BirdLife International (March, 2011)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=6425
  6. Aves de Chile (March, 2011)
    http://www.avesdechile.cl/
  7. Chester, S. (2008) A Wildlife Guide to Chile: Continental Chile, Chilean Antarctica, Easter Island, Juan Fernández Archipelago. Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford.
  8. Santos, M.M., Montalti, D., Juáres, M., Coria, N.R. and Archuby, D. (2007) First record of the austral thrush (Turdus falcklandii) from the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica. Notornis, 54: 231-232.
  9. Willson, M.F., Sabag, C., Figueroa, J. and Armesto, J.J. (1996) Frugivory and seed dispersal of Podocarpus nubigena in Chiloé, Chile. Revista Chilena de Historia Natural, 69: 343-349.