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Fieldfare

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Fieldfare

Fieldfare

Ian Kirk

One of the most common and widespread thrushes in Europe, the fieldfare is a lovely and distinctive bird with rich coloration and easily recognizable markings that make it a great addition to any birder's life list.

Common Name:

Fieldfare

Scientific Name:

Turdus pilaris

Scientific Family:

Turdidae

Appearance:

  • Bill: Straight, yellow with a black tip
  • Size: 10 inches long with 15-16-inch wingspan, deep chest, round shape, short neck
  • Colors: Gray, black, white, rust, buff, brown, chestnut
  • Markings: Genders are similar though females tend to be slightly duller. The gray head has a faint whitish eyebrow, black lores and faint dark streaking on the crown. The upper back is chestnut brown or brownish-black, contrasting with the light gray lower back and rump. The tail is black. The chin and throat are white with thin black streaks, and the breast is white or buff with a rust wash and black streaking. The flanks are white with a light brown wash and triangular or chevron dark spotting. The lower abdomen is plain white, though the chevron markings continue on the undertail coverts. Wings are chestnut with paler edges and dark primary feathers. Eyes are black, and legs and feet are dark. In flight, the pale underwing and white wingpit are distinct.

    Juveniles have similar markings to adults but duller colors with a more brownish hue overall.

Foods:

Insects, mollusks, fruit, berries (See: Omnivorous)

Habitat and Migration:

These thrushes prefer open forests or woodland edges as well as scrubby habitats, orchards and agricultural fields, particularly those bounded by brush or scrub. They are also common in urban and suburban parks and gardens.

Fieldfares are found year-round in northern Europe and the western part of Russia, as well as the southern tip of Sweden. The summer breeding range extends much further north and east to cover most of Russia excluding the barest area of Siberia. In winter, these thrushes spread south and west to include the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Turkey and parts of northern Africa along the Mediterranean Sea. Depending on the weather severity and food availability, these birds may be partially or fully migratory as well as nomadic within their range.

Vagrant sightings are occasionally recorded much further into Asia and the Middle East as well as in Alaska and northeastern North America.

Vocalizations:

These are relatively noisy birds that have a harsh, raspy voice. The typical call is a "clack-clack" sound with a somewhat mechanical tone, and other sounds include cackles, squeaks and rattles.

Behavior:

The fieldfare is generally solitary or found only in small groups during the breeding season, but they become quite gregarious in winter and can be found in flocks up to several hundred birds, occasionally mixed with other thrushes. While foraging, these birds hop industriously on the ground or stay low in shrubbery to glean insects or pick at fruits.

Reproduction:

These are monogamous birds. The female builds a cup-shaped nest of mud, grass, weeds or twigs, often in close proximity to other fieldfares, as these birds can be loosely colonial and may breed nearby for mutual protection. They are aggressive about defending their nesting site from intruders. The oval-shaped eggs are a gray-blue or gray-green color, and 5-6 eggs per brood is typical. A mated pair may raise 1-2 broods per year, with the second brood most common in southern parts of the breeding range.

The female parent incubates the eggs for 11-14 days, but after the altricial chicks hatch, both parents work to feed them for an additional 14-16 days until the young birds leave the nest.

Attracting Fieldfares:

These birds will readily and easily come to backyards and gardens, particularly if hedges and other plants offering fruits and berries are available. Hawthorns are especially attractive to fieldfares, and they will also investigate apples, raisins or other fruits as well as suet crumbles offered at low platform bird feeders or in ground-feeding areas. Other tips to attract thrushes include leaving leaf litter intact can provide a natural foraging area for these thrushes, and minimizing insecticide use ensures them a healthy supply of protein, especially during the breeding season. Fieldfares will also visit bird baths and other water sources.

Conservation:

The fieldfare is not threatened or endangered, though some local populations may be of special concern in areas where the birds are not seen frequently. Preserving food supplies in their winter range – such as not pruning berry-producing shrubs in fall to provide a winter food source – can help conserve fieldfares.

Similar Birds:

  • Redwing (Turdus Iliacus)
  • Dusky Thrush (Turdus naumanni)
  • Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos)
  • Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus)
  • American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

Photo – Fieldfare © Ian Kirk
Photo – Fieldfare in Flight © Craig Nash

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