Mistle Thrush

Turdus viscivorus

27cm

Appearance

The Mistle Thrush has a longer tail and a bigger wing span than the Song Thrush. It is greyish brown above, the cheeks are pale buffish with dark marks, the flanks are tinged with orange, the outer tail feathers have white tips, and there is a hint of a white wing-bar. It is pale underneath but adorned with big, vivid, dark spots. When flying, it is white beneath the wings. Juveniles are similar to adults, but they are spotted white on their backs and they have pale heads.

Habitat

The Mistle Thrush prefers woods with a variety of nesting and singing trees, and places with short grass where it can feed. May be flexible in its habitat as it seeks food outside of breeding season.

Character

Has an erect stance and usually feeds on open land. Finds high perches from which to sing, and may even sing through storms. When flying, the Mistle Thrush rises and falls, closing the wings frequently which causes decline. Usually socialises in small groups when not breeding. Can be territorial in winter if it's protecting a food-bearing tree.

Food

Diet includes beetles, earthworms, slugs, snails and other invertebrates, fruits, seeds, and berries such as yew, hawthorn, rowan and holly.

Breeding

February sees the beginning of nesting for Mistle Thrushes. Female lays 3-5 eggs which she incubates for 15-16 days. Both parents feed the hatchlings, which fledge at about 14 days old, but don't gain independence for 14 days more. Frequently two broods raised.

Population

Majority of Mistle Thrushes in the region are resident, but groups of birds can move around the region during winter. Once breeding has concluded, birds may venture into the countryside in pursuit of food, often heading to moorlands. A small number of Scottish birds may head to France in winter, and only a small number reach Britain from Europe. There are approximately 170 000 pairs in the UK and between 20 000 and 100 000 in Ireland.

Observation Tips

Something that can give the presence of a Mistle Thrush away is its tendency to sing through bad weather. The underwings are white, and can be used to separate the species from the Song Thrush. Mistle Thrushes can become quite protective of an abundant feeding tree, defending it from intruders; they are much less timid in character when doing this.

Voice

Has a song with varied, short phrases, punctuated with long breaks. Has a rattly call when disturbed.
Back to Bird Index