The Song Thrush is a familiar garden bird which is widespread and common throughout the whole of Europe. In Britain and Ireland, these are regular visitors to gardens of almost any size, parks, hedges and woodland. Further north, they are commonly found in most woodlands, particularly favouring damper plantations and forests.
Having declined somewhat dramatically in the mid 1980s in Britain, the number of Song Thrushes seen in the UK is now on the up once again. In the autumn, the British population is swollen by Continental migrants which stream into the country during September to November.
The Song Thrush is without doubt the garden thrush and should not really be confused with its spotty cousin, the Mistle Thrush. The Song Thrush is clearly a smaller, more compact bird compared with the big and bulky Mistle Thrush. The shorter tail of the Song Thrush is also easily noted, as is the lack of obvious pale wing fringes and the less boldly marked breast.
The bill, quite short but chunky, is dark-tipped with a warm brown base. To break open the protective shell of a snail, Song Thrushes dash them against a hard anvil, such as a stone or tree root. This is a common sight in winter when hard ground prevents a ready supply of worms.
The adult’s head is warm brown, with a faint buffy supercilium and very finely spotted patch on the cheeks. The mantle, rump and tail are all warm brown. The wings are brown and usually show two faint, thin off-white wing bars. The throat and belly are white, the breast and flanks are washed yellowy, but most obvious is the bold black spotting which extends from throat to rear flanks.
The Song Thrush’s song is a clear, languid, flutey affair consisting of much mimicry and repeated phrases. Once one phrase has been sung three or four times, a new phrase will take over. In flight, the Song Thrush has a thin, but somehow far-carrying ‘tsip’ call. The alarm call is much like that of Blackbird and other thrushes, a loud ‘chuck-chuck’.
In flight, the spotting on the underparts will be seen immediately. Also, look for the orangey colour on the underwing, the only common thrush to show this pattern. The flight itself is quick and very direct.
The juvenile Song Thrush is similar in plumage to the adult bird, but shows paler marks on the mantle, a more buffy wash to the underparts and smaller spots on the underside. Like the adult it has a black eye, complete with obvious orbital ring, and longish, pink legs and feet.