Turdus philomelos, the song thrush. P. J
The song thrush

The song thrush

The Andalucía Bird Society recommends looking out for Turdus philomelos this month

Peter Jones

Friday, 8 September 2023, 13:28

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The song thrush breeds in most of Europe (although not in the greater part of Iberia, lowland Italy, or southern Greece), and across Ukraine and Russia almost to Lake Baikal. It reaches to 75°N in Norway, but only to about 60°N in Siberia. Birds from Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and Russia winter around the Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Middle East, but only some of the birds in the milder west of the breeding range leave their breeding areas.

The song thrush is not usually gregarious, although several birds may roost together in winter or be loosely associated in suitable feeding habitats, perhaps with other thrushes such as the blackbird and redwing. Unlike the more nomadic fieldfare and redwing, the song thrush tends to return regularly to the same wintering areas.

During migration, the song thrush travels mainly at night with a strong and direct flight action. It flies in loose flocks which cross the sea on a broad front rather than concentrating at short crossings (as occurs in the migration of large soaring birds) and calls frequently to maintain contact. Migration may start as early as late August in the most easterly and northerly parts of the range, but most birds, with shorter distances to cover, head south from September to mid-December. However, hard weather may force further movement. Return migration varies between mid-February around the Mediterranean to May in northern Sweden and central Siberia.

Up here in the mountains of the Serranía de Ronda, I always manage a few sightings of these thrushes in September, but the main arrival occurs during October and coincides with large arrivals of other thrushes such as ring ouzel, redwing and yes, even the blackbird.

During dry autumns, it is not unusual to see large mixed flocks of these thrushes as they congregate around water sources.

Sadly, song thrushes are still a much-persecuted bird in Andalucía as they remain a favourite bird for shooters in the name of so-called sport, and birds are also shot and captured for food.

I wonder if these hunters have ever heard this wonderful songster singing and how each victim becomes one less song to be appreciated by all who listen.

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