Grey-sided thrush (Turdus feae)

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyTurdidae
GenusTurdus (1)
SizeLength: 24 cm (2)

The grey-sided thrush is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

A bird with an unremarkable appearance, the grey-sided thrush (Turdus feae) has warm brown plumage on its back which, as its name suggests, shades to grey on the sides and pales even further towards the belly (2). The male grey-sided thrush has white streaks above and below each eye, a black upper bill, a yellowish lower bill and brownish-yellow legs (3). The female grey-sided thrush differs by having a whiter lower belly and a white throat with dark streaks on either side (2). Juvenile grey-sided thrushes are similar in appearance to females except for the pale streaks on either side of the head (3).

The call of the grey-sided thrush is a thin ‘zeeee’ or ‘sieee’ (2).

During the breeding season, the grey-sided thrush occurs only in a relatively small mountainous region of north-east China. During winter, it occupies a much larger area, and can be found in north-east India, Myanmar, northwest Thailand and Laos (2).

The grey-sided thrush breeds in the mountains, between 1,000 and 1,900 metres above sea level, in oak and pine forests with a temperate climate. During the winter months it is found in evergreen forest at altitudes ranging between 1,500 and 2,600 metres (2). 

The grey-sided thrush forages for insects and berries on the ground or less commonly in the trees, often in the company of the eyebrowed thrush (Turdus obscurus). It is also thought to feed on nectar from the flowers of the shingle tree (Acrocarpus fraxinifolius) (3).

The breeding season of the grey-sided thrush is from May to September. The males arrive at the breeding grounds first, establishing territories before the females arrive (4). After mating, the grey-sided thrush collects wet mud and clay from streams to build a bowl-shaped nest, which is normally positioned 1 to 1.5 metres up a small tree surrounded by dense vegetation (3) (4). The female grey-sided thrush generally lays 4 or 5 eggs and both the male and female incubate the eggs until they hatch 14 days later. The new-born chicks will be dependent on their parents for the first 12 to 14 days of life (3). 

After the breeding season, the grey-sided thrush begins its lengthy migration southwards, arriving on its wintering grounds in October or November (4). 

Habitat loss in both its breeding and non-breeding range is the greatest threat to the grey-sided thrush. The breeding region in northern China is one of the most densely human-populated regions in the world, and as a result has had most of its natural forests cleared for agricultural land or timber production (4). The forests in the non-breeding regions, such as those in Thailand, have also been reduced in size due to wood collection, burning and agriculture (2) (3).

Capture of the grey-sided thrush for the wild bird trade and for food may also pose a threat (4).

The grey-sided thrush has been recorded in several protected areas throughout its range, including the Pangquangou National Nature Reserve and Baihuashan Nature Reserve in China, Natma Taung National Park in Myanmar and the Suthep-Pui National park in Thailand (2). It is also legally protected in Thailand (4).

Several conservation actions for the grey-sided thrush have been proposed by BirdLife International, including developing forest management regimes in protected areas where the grey-sided thrush occurs. It has also been recommended that the Pangquangou National Nature Reserve should be extended, and that the Lao Ling and Baihuashan Nature Reserves should be more strongly protected. In addition, the grey-sided thrush should be listed as a protected species in China, which may help protect it from the threat of capture (2). 

Learn more about bird conservation:

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  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. BirdLife International (November, 2010)
    http://www.birdlife.org/
  3. del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A. and Christie, D. (2005) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 10: Cuckoo-Shrikes to Thrushes. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  4. BirdLife International (2001) Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.