Song Thrush
Turdus philomelos
Population size
75-120 Mlnlnn
Life Span
3-10 years
g oz 
cm inch 
cm inch 

Song thrushes (Turdus philomelos) are popular birds that breed across the West Palearctic. They build neat mud-lined cup nests and have the habit of using a favorite stone as an "anvil" on which to break open the shells of snails when they are feeding.


The Song thrush has plain brown backs and neatly black-spotted cream or yellow-buff underparts, becoming paler on the belly. The underwing is warm yellow, the bill is yellowish and the legs and feet are pink. The upperparts of this species become colder in tone from west to east across the breeding range from Sweden to Siberia. The juvenile resembles the adult but has buff or orange streaks on the back and wing coverts.




Song thrushes breed in most of Europe, and across the Ukraine and Russia almost to Lake Baikal. Birds from Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and Russia winter around the Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Middle East, but only some of the birds in the milder west of the breeding range leave their breeding areas. Song thrushes breed in coniferous and deciduous woodland and hedgerows, gardens, and parks. They typically nest in forests with good undergrowth and nearby more open areas such as heathland. Their winter habitat is similar to that used for breeding, except that high ground and other exposed localities are avoided; however, some birds will frequent the seashore in winter.

Song Thrush habitat map
Song Thrush habitat map
Song Thrush
Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

Habits and Lifestyle

Song thrushes are usually not gregarious, although several birds may roost together in winter or be loosely associated in suitable feeding habitats, perhaps with other thrushes such as the blackbird, fieldfare, redwing, and dark-throated thrush. During migration, Song thrushes travel mainly at night with a strong and direct flight action. They fly in loose flocks which cross the sea on a broad front rather than concentrating at short crossings (as occurs in the migration of large soaring birds), and call frequently to maintain contact. Migration may start as early as late August in the most easterly and northerly parts of the range, but the majority of birds, with shorter distances to cover, head south from September to mid-December. Return migration varies from mid-February to May. Song thrushes feed during the day and find their prey by sight; they use a run-and-stop hunting technique on open ground and will rummage through leaf-litter seeking potential food items. These birds have a short, sharp 'tsip' call, replaced on migration by a thin high 'seep' and their alarm call is a 'chook-chook'. The male's song, given from trees, rooftops, or other elevated perches, is a loud clear run of musical phrases, repeated two to four times, 'filip filip filip codidio codidio quitquiquit tittit tittit tereret tereret tereret', and interspersed with grating notes and mimicry.

Group name
Seasonal behavior
Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition

Song thrushes are omnivorous birds and consume a wide range of invertebrates, especially earthworms, and snails. They also eat small berries and soft fruit.

Mating Habits

10-17 days
29-34 days
4-5 eggs

Song thrushes are monogamous (one male to one female) territorial birds, and in areas where they are fully migratory, the males re-establish their breeding territory and start singing as soon as they return. In the milder areas where some birds stay year-round, the resident males remain in their breeding territory, singing intermittently, but the females may establish a separate individual wintering range until pair formation begins in the early spring. After the pair was formed the female builds a neat cup-shaped nest lined with mud and dry grass in a bush, tree or creeper, or on the ground. She lays 4-5 bright glossy blue eggs that are lightly spotted with black or purple and incubates them alone for 10-17 days. After hatching the chicks are fed by both parents for about 2 weeks until they fledge and leave the nest. They will remain with their parents for another 15-20 days and then become independent. Song thrushes usually produce two or three broods in a year, although only one may be raised in the north of the range.


Population threats

Although Song thrushes are not threatened globally, there have been serious population declines in parts of Europe, possibly due to changes in farming practices. The precise reasons for the decline are not known but may be related to the loss of hedgerows, a move to sowing crops in autumn rather than spring, and possibly the increased use of pesticides. These changes may have reduced the availability of food and of nest sites. In gardens, the use of poison bait to control slugs and snails may pose a threat. In urban areas, some thrushes are killed while using the hard surface of roads to smash snails.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total Song thrush population size is 75,000,000-119,999,999 mature individuals. In Europe, the breeding population consists of 24,400,000-38,400,000 pairs, which equates to 48,800,000-76,800,000 mature individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List, and its numbers today are increasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Long ago Song thrushes were known as ‘throstles’. The name 'throstle' dates back to at least the 14th century and means 'thrush'.
  • Song thrushes are famous for their sweet songs and an individual male may have a repertoire of more than 100 phrases, many copied from its parents and neighboring birds.
  • Song thrushes are also able to mimic sounds which may include the imitation of man-made items like telephones; thrushes also repeat the calls of captive birds, including exotics such as the white-faced whistling duck.
  • Land snails are an especially important food item for Song thrushes when drought or hard weather makes it hard to find other food. The birds often use a favorite stone as an "anvil" on which to break the shell of the snail before extracting the soft body and invariably wiping it on the ground before consumption. Young thrushes initially flick objects and attempt to play with them until they learn to use anvils as tools to smash snails.
  • Up to at least the 19th century the Song thrush was kept as a cage bird because of its melodious voice.


1. Song Thrush on Wikipedia -
2. Song Thrush on The IUCN Red List site -
3. Xeno-canto bird call -

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