The fieldfare (Turdus pilaris ) is a member of the thrush family Turdidae. These birds often nest in small colonies, and during migration often form large flocks, often in the company of Redwings.
The fieldfare is easily recognisable with its slate-grey head, nape and rump, dark brown back, blackish tail and boldly speckled breast. In flight, its white under wing-coverts and axillaries are conspicuous. The forehead and crown of the male are bluish-grey and each feather has a central brownish-black band. The lores and under-eye regions are black and there are faint, pale streaks above the eyes. The ear coverts, nape, hind neck and rump are bluish-grey, usually with a white streak near the shaft of each rump feather. The scapulars and mantle feathers are dark chestnut-brown with dark central streaks and pale tips. There are fourteen tail feathers each with a pointed tip, the outer two slightly shorter than the others giving a rounded tail. They are brownish-black, with inconspicuous darker bars visible in some lights. The outer edge of each tail feather is fringed with grey near the base and the outer pair of feathers have a narrow white border on the inner edge. The chin, throat and upper breast are creamy-buff with bold streaks and speckles of brownish-black. The lower breast is creamy-white with a diminishing buff tinge and fewer speckles and the belly is similarly creamy-white, with the speckles restricted to the uppermost parts. The primaries are brownish-black with the leading edge fringed grey and the inner edge of the outer feathers grey near the base whereas the inner feathers are fringed with brown near the base. The secondaries are similar but fringed with chestnut-brown on the leading edge. The upper wing-coverts are brownish-black and similar to the outer primaries in their margin colouration. The axillaries and under wing-coverts are white and the under tail-coverts have dark greyish-brown bases and margins and white centres and tips. The beak is strong, with a slight curve and a notch near the tip. It is orange-yellow in winter, with the upper mandible somewhat brownish and both mandible tips brownish-black. In the summer both mandibles of the male's beak are yellow. The irises are dark brown and the legs and feet are brown. The average adult length is 25 cm (9.8 in), the wing length is 14.5 cm (5.7 in) and the tarsal length 3.5 cm (1.4 in). Wingspan ranges from 39 to 42 cm and weight ranges from 80 to 140 g.Show More
The female is very similar to the male but the upper parts are somewhat more brownish and the feathers on the crown have narrower black central stripes. The throat and breast are paler with fewer, smaller markings. The beak is similar to the male's winter beak. The juveniles are a duller colour than the adults with pale coloured streaks on the feathers that have dark streaks in the adult. The young assume their adult plumage after their first moult in the autumn.Show Less
Fieldfares breed in northern Europe and across the Palearctic. They are strongly migratory, with many northern birds moving south during the winter. They are very rare breeders in Great Britain & Ireland, but winter in large numbers in the United Kingdom, Southern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. In the summer fieldfares frequent mixed woodland of birch, alder, pine, spruce, and fir, often near marshes, moorland, or other open ground. They can be seen in cultivated areas, orchards, parks, and gardens and also inhabit open tundra and the slopes of hills above the tree line. In the winter, these birds are chiefly found in open country, agricultural land, orchards, and open woodland. They are nomadic, wandering wherever there is an abundance of berries and insects. Later in the year, they move on to pastureland and cultivated fields.
Fieldfares are highly gregarious, quite shy and easily scared in the winter, and bold and noisy in the breeding season. When a group is in a tree they all usually face in the same direction, keeping up a constant chatter. When foraging on the ground, often in association with redwings, the group works its way up wind, each bird pausing every so often to stand erect and gaze around before resuming feeding. When alarmed they fly off down wind and the feeding group reforms elsewhere. In woodland they do not skulk in the undergrowth, instead, they perch in the open on bushes and high branches. They roost together at night, sometimes in overgrown hedges and shrubberies but usually on the ground. The call of these birds is mostly uttered in flight and is a harsh ‘tsak tsak tsuk’. The same sound, but softer, is made more conversationally when individuals gather in trees. When angry or alarmed fieldfares emit various warning sounds. The male has a rather feeble song that he sings during the breeding season. It is a mixture of a few phrases like those of the Common blackbird interspersed with whistles, guttural squeaks, and call notes. This is sung on the wing and also from a tree and a subdued version of this song with more warbling notes is sung by a group of birds at communal roosts.
Fieldfares are omnivorous. Their diet includes snails and slugs, earthworms, spiders, and insects such as beetles and their larvae, flies, and grasshoppers. When berries ripen in the autumn these are taken in great numbers. In particularly harsh weather, fieldfares may move to marshes or even the foreshore where they find mollusks.
Fieldfares are serially monogamous and form pairs only for a single breeding season. They start to breed in May in Poland but further north in Scandinavia may not start until early July. The female builds a cup-shaped nest often in woodland but may be in a hedgerow, garden, among rocks, in a pile of logs, in a hut, or on the ground. Fieldfares usually nest in close proximity to others of the same species. The adults will defend the nest aggressively and nesting gregariously may offer protection from predators. The nest is built of dried grasses and weeds with a few twigs and a little moss, with a lining of mud and an inner lining of fine grasses. There are usually 5 to 6 eggs in a clutch. Incubation starts before all the eggs are laid and lasts for 13 to 14 days. The female does all or most of the incubation. The chicks are altricial (helpless) and both parents bring food to them. They are usually ready to leave the nest after 14 to 16 days and there may be two broods in the season, especially in the southern parts of the breeding range.
There are no major threats to this species at present.
According to IUCN Red List, the total population size of the fieldfare is 71,000,000-143,000,000 mature individuals. In Europe, the breeding population consists of 14,200,000-28,600,000 pairs, which equates to 28,400,000-57,300,000 mature individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.