Song thrush (Turdus philomelos)

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Song thrush fact file

Song thrush description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyMuscicapidae
GenusTurdus (1)

Slightly smaller than the blackbird, the familiar song thrush (Turdus philomelos) has brown upperparts and creamy underparts with obvious dark brown spots. The beautiful song is loud and musical, with repeated phrases. In flight, a soft 'sip' call is produced (4).

French
Grive musicienne.
Size
Length: 23 cm (2)
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Song thrush biology

Song thrushes take a variety of food but earthworms form a very important part of the diet. Towards the end of summer if the ground is too hard to obtain earthworms, they take snails and break the shells by tapping them on stones (2). These 'snail anvils' can often be found in gardens with the remains of a snail around them. This behaviour is unique to the song thrush, but occasionally a blackbird will steal the snail once an unfortunate thrush has carried out the hard work of breaking the shell (2).

The long breeding season lasts from March to August. Two or three broods are produced in this time; each clutch contains three to five pale blue-black spotted eggs that are incubated by the female. Both parents feed the young, which become independent about five weeks after hatching (2).

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Song thrush range

The song thrush is widespread throughout Europe reaching east to Siberia. Populations in the north of the range are migratory; the wintering areas extend down into North Africa, whereas in central Europe including the UK, populations tend to be resident throughout the year. In the UK they are found in the largest numbers in south-east England and East Anglia (2).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Song thrush habitat

Found in parks, small woodlands, hedgerows, and gardens. They require trees and bushes with areas of open grassland and moist soil with a plentiful supply of invertebrate food (2).

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Song thrush status

The song thrush is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1). Listed under the Birds of Conservation Concern Red List and the EC Birds Directive. Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Song thrush threats

After the mid-1970s there was a steady decline in song thrush numbers; since then a decline of 73 percent has occurred in farmland and 49 percent in woodland habitats (3). Although the reasons for this decline are not yet understood, it is thought that the widespread changes in agricultural practices have been involved; removal of hedgerows has caused a loss of nesting sites, and the increased use of pesticides and the loss of winter stubbles have reduced the food supply. Predation by crows and foxes and competition with blackbirds may also be important (3).

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Song thrush conservation

The severity of the song thrush decline was recognised fairly recently, so very little conservation work has focused on this species to date. The RSPB is promoting environmentally sensitive farming practices as a means to conserve the song thrush and other threatened farmland birds. Research into the ecology of this species and the causes of the decline is ongoing. Gardens are important habitats for this species; certain measures can be taken to make a garden more attractive to wildlife (2). The song thrush is a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP), and a Species Action Plan has been produced to coordinate its conservation (3).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.
There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Find out more

For more information on the song thrush and other bird species:

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Authentication

Information authenticated by the RSPB:
http://www.rspb.org.uk/

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Glossary

Incubate
To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
Invertebrates
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones), echinoderms, and others.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. RSPB (November 2001)
    http://www.rspb.org.uk
  3. UK Biodiversity (November 2001)
    http://www.ukbap.org.uk/
  4. Peterson, R.T., Mountfort, G., Hollom. (1993) Collins Field Guide. Birds of Britain and Europe. Harper Collins, London.
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Image credit

Song thrush perched  
Song thrush perched

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