|Irish Name:||Smólach mór|
|Scientific name:||Turdus viscivorus|
Common resident. Additional birds arrive from the Continent in winter.
About the same size as a Blackbird. Has a very upright stance in comparison to either Song thrush or Blackbird. The face is white with some black markings, while the eye has a distinct white eyering. The crown, nape and back of the Mistle Thrush are plain brown. The throat and upper part are white with some black streaks. This is bordered by a brownish smudge across the breast, with the rest of the underparts white with black spots. The rump is pale grey-brown, while the tail is brown - the outer tail feathers being white. The legs are pink in contrast to the dark colouring of the Fieldfare
The most commonly heard call is a loud, rattling “prrrrt”, usually given when a predator is spotted or another bird lands in a favoured berry tree. The song is very similar to that of the Blackbird, though less musical and the phrases are more widely spaced.
In winter, Mistle Thrushes feed mainly on berries and will vigorously defend a favoured tree from all other birds. Also feeds on insects and earthworms.
Breeds throughout Ireland, though less commonly in the south. Mistle Thrushes are less frequently seen in suburban gardens than Blackbirds and Song Thrushes, favouring larger parks and rural areas.
Irish Mistle Thrushes are resident, with some limited immigration of Continental birds.
Countryside Bird Survey & Garden Bird Survey.
Widespread throughout Ireland but less common than Song thrush.
Numbers in Winter bolstered by South-Westerly migration of Scottish population.
Blog posts about this bird
Red(wing) Sky at Night
Redwings were recorded across 96% of the island of Ireland during the 2007-11 Bird Atlas – more than either Song Thrush or Mistle Thrush – and yet many people are still unfamiliar with them. As numbers build, Redwing will become very obvious around the countryside. They tend to travel and feed in flocks. They’ll eat berries and fruit in hedges and orchards when they first arrive in the autumn and move to feeding on worms and invertebrates in wet grassland fields as the winter goes on. They’re roughly the size of a Song Thrush but have very obvious creamy markings above and below the eye, with the red patches on the flanks making them unmistakeable as anything else. Their warm colours and distinct markings understandably make them a favourite of many birdwatchers!
— BirdTrack (@BirdTrack) October 8, 2019
Redwing are the smallest species of thrush that we have in Ireland and they’re often joined on migration and in feeding flocks by other thrushes. The most notable one is the Fieldfare – another thrush species that only occurs here in winter. Our wintering Fieldfares come from Fennoscandia, but in smaller numbers than Redwings. They have a distinctive blue/grey head, pale flanks and are slightly taller and bulkier than the Redwing. The first Fieldfare of the winter was also recorded on Tory Island in Donegal, two weeks after the first Redwing (13th October 2019, via Irishbirding.com). Since then they’ve touched down in counties as far south as Wicklow, Kilkenny, Waterford and Cork. It should be noted too that our resident Thrush populations also get ‘topped up’ in the winter, with thousands of Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Mistle Thrushes from Britain, Fennoscandia and mainland Europe either spending the winter here or at least passing through on their way further south. So the marvel of migration continues, and the Irish bird community continues to change with the seasons. Make sure to listen out on a calm cloudy or drizzly autumn night to hear the Redwings passing overhead and try and get a chance to appreciate the striking appearance of both Redwing and Fieldfare on a wet grassland field near you this winter. Some of you might even be lucky enough to get them in your garden during this winters Irish Garden Bird Survey!
Word of the Day: "siocán" - lit. "frost-bird"; Irish name for the redwing, a glow-flanked thrush arriving now from Scandinavia to winter on berries. Redwings often move at night, dipping in flocks across fields, singing to keep contact. Seen them yet? (Engraving; HL Meyer 1842) pic.twitter.com/tt0RCSTHv9
— Robert Macfarlane (@RobGMacfarlane) October 24, 2019
Don't forget the Irish Garden Bird Survey will return this December - details will be published in the next issue of Wings, and keep an eye on our social media and website next month for further details.