Turdus viscivorus. Peter Jones
The mistle thrush
Andalusian bird watch

The mistle thrush

The Andalucía Bird Society recommends looking out for the Turdus viscivorus this month

Peter Jones


Friday, 19 April 2024, 17:20


Mistle thrush are present throughout Andalucía's woodlands, both coniferous and extensive oak forests. It is in woodland areas that they are most observed, yet they can also be seen in lightly wooded areas with open ground, where they will forage for invertebrates.

The local birds are resident with some evidence of altitudinal dispersal during colder winter spells and these local birds are joined during the autumn and winter by birds arriving from northern Europe. I found that, here and in the UK, many local birds appeared to largely desert breeding grounds for a period during July and August, during this time they would flock as family groups in open and sometimes cultivated areas. Outside of late summer, I see them most frequently as individuals or pairs, except for autumn when I have seen large flocks feeding together. These large flocks can be several family groups coming together in areas where food is plentiful, also migrant birds will join resident birds at this time.

The mistle thrush is the largest thrush native to Europe, the loud melodious and far carrying song is one of my favourite woodland sounds and even during inclement weather the male will deliver his song, which in days gone by, gave rise to its old name stormcock. The Latin name aptly describes this thrush as the name viscivorus translates to 'mistletoe eater', and the berry of this parasitic plant is a favoured food source.

The resident birds are monogamous and stay paired throughout the year, they will establish a large feeding territory, which can extend to 17 hectares, around their nesting area. The pair will vigorously defend the nest territory against intruders including birds of prey, corvids (jays in my area), cats and as I have found to my own cost, humans! Chaffinches often nest close to them, the vigilance of this finch together with the aggressive behaviour of the thrush seems to be mutually beneficial. The local birds feed mainly on invertebrates, fruit and berries, animal prey will include earthworms, insects, slugs, and snails. Like song thrush, they will sometimes smash snails on a favoured stone anvil.

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