Identification

Song thrushes are similar in shape to blackbirds. They have brown upperparts and white breasts with brown spots. They are usually solitary, territorial birds.

Their song is distinctive and much admired, being penetrating and musical, often with repeated phrases and occasional mimicry of other species.

A good sign of the presence of a song thrush is a stone with fragments of snail shells around. This is a result of their unique feeding behaviour.

Size

20-24cm (8-9 1/2in) long.

Distribution

Widespread and common across the UK, where it tends to be resident all year round except in the more exposed upland areas, which song thrushes tend to avoid during the winter.

Status

Global song thrush populations are not considered threatened, however, in the UK there have been severe population declines recorded since the 1970s. It is thought that this is mainly a result of the intensification of farming that has caused a reduction in food. The main impact is on young birds, with first winter survival rates showing a marked decrease. They are a priority species under the UK biodiversity action plan, and it is illegal to kill, injure or take any wild song thrush under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Habitat preference

Parks, gardens, woodland and hedgerows provide good habitat for song thrushes. Areas of open grassland with slightly damp soil provide a good foraging environment.

Where to find them in the garden

Look for them foraging on the lawn, or in trees and hedgerows. During the spring it can be difficult to miss them singing loudly from an elevated location, proclaiming their territory to other birds.

Role in the garden

The main diet of song thrushes is earthworms, but they also feed on other invertebrates, fruits and berries. They can sometimes be seen taking snails, which they feed on by smashing the shells against stones until they break. This method of eating snails is unique to the song thrush.