A widespread breeding resident and the UK’s largest thrush, this extremely vocal bird has a song which can be heard at a distance of up to two kilometres.
Male and female mistle thrushes are similar in both physique and plumage. The bird stands very erect and is often aggressive towards others. Although a large bird the neck is slender and the head small and round. Upperparts are mainly greyish brown but with a pale brown or buff rump. It has grey upper wings with narrow white wing bars and a long greyish brown tail edged with white. The underparts are predominantly creamy white with evenly spread black spots covering the throat down to the vent at the base of the tail. This same colouration and marking covers both flanks but the under wing areas are white. The face and cheeks are a pale faintly mottled grey with a dark eye and whitish area immediately in front of the eye and behind the base of the beak, sometimes extending up over the eye. The beak is dark with a pale yellow base and the legs are pinkish brown. Juvenile birds are similar but with a pale head and buff streaking from the nape to the shoulder blades and pale spot markings extending down the back.
The adult male is the singer of the species and is often seen calling from treetops with a loud fluty song consisting of short repetitive ‘churrtootoo’ sounds.
Close up of a Mistle Thrush
The mistle thrush survives on a diet of berries, seeds, fruit, insects and worms which it finds by foraging on the ground as it bounds along purposefully in distinctive hops or takes from trees and bushes, particularly in winter.
Mistle Thrush eating berries
The bird’s Latin name of Turdus Viscivorus means thrush (from turdus) and devourer of mistletoe, a favourite feast of the bird (from viscivorus) which is from where the bird gets its English name of Mistle Thrush.
Mistle thrushes are widespread throughout the UK. They are very territorial and inhabit woodland areas, urban and suburban parks and gardens. They avoid high ground and are absent from the Scottish western and northern isles.
Mistle Thrush with spread wings
Generally found in pairs the mistle thrush will often flock in July and August and in cold winters when food is at a premium will aggressively guard its own food store, normally a berry laden bush or tree. It has a distinctive bounding hopping movement when on the ground particularly when foraging and is a common sight singing from the topmost branches of trees. Do not confuse with the song thrush which is a much smaller bird with generally darker plumage and orange buff underwings.
Large cup shaped nests formed with twigs, roots, plant stems and grasses are ‘cemented’ together with mud then lined with pine needles or fine grass and built in the fork of a tree usually between two to ten metres from the ground. Up to two broods are produced annually between March and June, each consisting of 3 – 5 bluish green eggs with purple spots. Incubation lasts for up to two weeks and the young fledge around twenty days after hatching.
Mistle Thrush collecting nest material
Life expectancy for the mistle thrush is from five to ten years although the species suffers from a higher than average infant mortality rate.