A Bad Case of Songthrush

The Song Thrush: one of Britain’s most charming and decorous songbirds. Dressed tastefully in brown, black and gold, it hops about in our pasture tweaking at this or that worm, bashing snails against rocks or cocking its head to watch passers-by.

One of the most frequently asked questions on my walks is “why do you have so many thrushes?” Why indeed. I have often asked myself the same question at 3:05am, when they all erupt into song right outside my window. I have a high tolerance for birds; but at that time in the morning, good humour is thin on the ground.

Even more annoying is their interval – usually somewhere between 4:00-5:00am – which lulls the human sleeper into a false sense of tranquillity. At 6:00am they all strike up again, shrieking like car alarms. This uncharitable behaviour would try the patience of even the most virtuous bird lover.

So why do we have so many Song Thrushes on Glengorm? To answer that, we must turn the question on its head: why might there be fewer of them elsewhere? Song Thrushes are a Red Listed species in Britain – their decline seems to be linked to the way our landscape is used.

Intensive arable agriculture doesn’t suit thrushes. They prefer a mixed farmland environment, and preferably, one that includes permanent cattle pasture. Such pastures are rich in manure and its associated insect life; ideal foraging habitat for the Song Thrush. They also like hedgerows, woodland, wet flushes and gardens – all of which provide opportunities for nesting and feeding on insects and fruits.

Most Song Thrushes don’t live long [average 4yrs] but they can make up to five breeding attempts per season when the getting is good. Song thrushes produce fewer broods per season in intensively farmed areas – to such a marked extent, that they can no longer recruit enough young birds to keep the local population topped up.

Thankfully there is evidence that the overall decline is stabilising, and there has been a partial recovery in the last 10yrs. With luck, thrushes will be depriving me of sleep for many years to come.

Stephanie Cope

Glengorm Wildlife Steward

Fueling Up: this Songthrush has to keep energised for all that early morning singing!Songthrush