Fieldfares - Birds in the Thrush Family Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Fieldfares - Birds in the Thrush Family

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The Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) is a member of the thrush family. Like the Song Thrush it is a bird with a speckled breast and brown feathers on its back. However, unlike the Song Thrush it has a grey head and grey rump so is distinctive if it is seen in a field or in a tree.

These birds can be found across Europe, North Africa and Asia. The global population is estimated to be in excess of 70 million birds. The population is stable, so they are classed as Least Concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List.

As their name suggests, Fieldfares are often found in fields and open grasslands where they eat worms and insects. In autumn and winter, they feed in trees, eating the berries of species such as juniper, elder, hawthorn, holly and rowan. Fieldfares usually migrate for the winter, travelling from their breeding grounds in northern Europe or Siberia to places such as the British Isles, Spain or Egypt. They are usually seen in flocks. In winter they may even gather together with other members of the thrush family, such as Redwings.

Male and female Fieldfares are similar in appearance. In the breeding season the females make nests in trees using twigs, roots and moss stuck together with mud. The nest is lined with softer material such as grass and animal fur. The female lays up to six eggs and incubates them. The eggs hatch after about two weeks, and the chicks can fly at around two weeks old. Both parents feed the chicks for approximately four weeks. A pair can have up to two clutches of chicks in a year. The oldest Fieldfare known to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) was 18 years old.

In the UK, Fieldfares can be seen in trees or grassland between October and March. A small number can be found in Scotland or the North East of England in summer, but most head further north for the breeding season. Fieldfares are frequent visitors to nature reserves, including Titchfield Haven on the south coast and Burton Mere in the north west.

The Thrush Family

There are many other members of the Turdus genus that can be found around the world1, including the Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula) and the American Robin (Turdus migratorius). The plumage of these birds varies depending on the species, but often contains black, brown, speckles or red. Many of the species are of Least Concern with stable populations, but others are less fortunate. The Taita Thrush (Turdus helleri) is Endangered as it is found only in Kenya. The Principe Thrush (Turdus xanthorhynchus) is found only on the island of Principe and is vulnerable to hunting as well as predators, so is Critically Endangered. Efforts to protect habitats for Fieldfares and other members of the thrush family are ongoing.

1Excluding Antarctica and Australasia.

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