Song thrush

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Song thrush
Song thrush (Turdus philomelos)

Song thrush ( Turdus philomelos )

Order : Passerines (Passeriformes)
Subordination : Songbirds (passeri)
Family : Thrushes (Turdidae)
Subfamily : Turdinae
Genre : Real thrushes ( Turdus )
Type : Song thrush
Scientific name
Turdus philomelos
Brehm , 1831
Song thrush on snowy lawn

The Song Thrush ( Turdus philomelos ) is a bird art that the family of thrushes (Turdidae) and the order of the passerines belongs (Passeriformes). It is native to the temperate and boreal zones of the western and central Palearctic and is one of the most common forest-dwelling species there. European birds overwinter in the Mediterranean . It was introduced as a new citizen ( neozoon ) in the middle of the 19th century in southeast Australia and New Zealand .



The song thrush is a bit smaller than a blackbird with a body length of 20–22 cm and also looks more delicate and short-tailed. The wing length is on average 80 mm. The average weight in winter is around 70 g, the minimum weight at the end of the breeding season is 60 g. If fat deposits were formed at the time of migration, a song thrush can weigh up to 90 g.

The top of the head is warm gray-brown, a lighter stripe above the eyes is indicated, which mostly only appears clearly separated in the area of ​​the forehead. The reins are dark brown and have light speckles. The ear covers are light brown. The neck, sides of the neck and anterior back are warm brown, the rest of the upper side is gray-brown to olive-brown. The chin and the front throat are beige to cream-colored, the front chest and the flanks are covered with a yellowish-brown color, which merges smoothly into the matt white of the rear chest and stomach. The underside is also patterned with black-brown spots, which are elongated and narrow on the chin and throat and condense into a streak of beard. This is set off against the brown rein by an unpatterned, light border. Towards the belly, the spots become larger and more rounded, fan-shaped and form indicated rows. In spring they can be inverted V-shaped or heart-shaped. They sometimes become lighter towards the flanks and sparse on the lower abdomen. The control and wing springs are mostly brown with a reddish brown, lighter outer flag. The three inner arm wings are often indistinctly lined. The large and medium arm covers have a light pointy spot. The under wing coverts are rusty yellow and in flight stand out clearly from the under wing, which is otherwise gray-brown to gray.

The eye is dark brown and wears a cream-colored ring. The beak is black-brown with yellowish lower beak branches. The feet of adult animals are yellow-brown to brownish pink, and pink-mother-of-pearl in youngsters.

Sex dimorphism is not pronounced. Only the average dimensions are slightly larger in males.

In the youth dress, the top is warmer brown and shows an intense cinnamon yellow stain on the shoulders and back. The underside is more yellow than in adults, and the markings on the underside are less contrasting.

The song thrush can be confused with the mistletoe thrush , which is one fifth larger, has a teardrop-shaped, round, very coarse speckle on the underside and is rather dull gray-brown on the top. The clearly longer-looking tail shows white tips on the outer feathers and the flight is wavy. The red thrush is similar, but smaller, has strong fox-red flanks and in flight the same under wing-coverts. In addition, the underside is rather streaky, and the head pattern of light stripes above the eyes and light beard stripes are much clearer.


The song of the song thrush ? / i consists of mostly polysyllabic, clearly separated elements, which are characteristically repeated two to three times (e.g. tülip tülip tülip  - tschidi-trü tschidi-trü tschidi-trü  - didi didi didi ). Individual, unrepeated rollers or trills are also interspersed between these rows. The repertoire of individual elements is quite large and these can be very variable. They can be whistling, chirping, or snarling. Overall, the vocals are mostly quite melodic, but lack the throaty, fluting characteristics of the blackbird . Overall, it is usually a bit shrillier and less “warm”. Sometimes voices of other types are also incorporated into the stanzas. A song thrush sometimes sings for up to 50 minutes, but such a continuous song is usually accompanied by short pauses, e.g. B. when changing location, interrupted. Audio file / audio sample

The courtship song is quieter and less fluting, you can usually only hear it when you stand directly under the tree on which the male is singing.

The lure and flight call is a short, high zit or zip that can be drawn in two voices every now and then. This call can be heard particularly often in autumn from migrating specimens. A high, drawn siit is also uttered on the train , similar to the train call of the red thrush.

The excitement call is a short djück or djück-djück , which can turn into violent trembling when excited. It is similar to that of the blackbird, but mostly higher and shriller , chik-chik or check-check-check-check ...

Distribution map : yellow: breeding bird, green: stationary bird, blue: winter visitor


The song thrush is native to the western and central Palearctic Islands, where it inhabits the temperate and boreal zones. With the exception of Iceland and the southern Mediterranean regions , it occurs throughout Europe. In the east their occurrence extends to Lake Baikal . In the western part of its distribution it ranges from 40 ° to 70 ° N, in the eastern part from 50 to 65 °. It also populates a strip that extends through northern Turkey to Transcaucasia and south of the Caspian Sea to Iran .

It was introduced in southeast Australia and New Zealand in the mid-19th century and is widespread in New Zealand and the surrounding islands. In Australia, their occurrence is limited to the Melbourne area, despite further attempts at naturalization .


Pulling song thrush

The song thrush is largely a migratory bird that migrates to the southwest and west into the predominantly Mediterranean winter quarters. The wintering areas of most European populations are mainly to the west and south of the 2.5 ° C January isotherm, i.e. in southwest France, on the Iberian , Apennine and Balkan peninsulas , in North Africa , Asia Minor and in the Middle East . Siberian birds probably winter in Mesopotamia , Iran and Oman , western Saudi Arabia and, exceptionally, east to Pakistan .

There seems to be a tendency to skip migration : the further northeast the breeding areas of a population are, the further it moves. Nordic birds sometimes migrate very far and overwinter on the Iberian Peninsula, while the populations of the British Isles , in Atlantic-influenced Western Europe and possibly as far as the southern North Sea area are sometimes resident birds or only migrate short distances.

In large parts of the breeding area, the migration begins hesitantly in August, reaches its peak at the end of September at the earliest, but mostly around the second decade of October, and is usually completed in November. It can often be easily identified, especially at night, by the flight calls of migrating birds. Winter observations are not uncommon in Central Europe, especially in mild winters, and the number of attempts to hibernate is increasing. The home migration usually begins at the end of January / beginning of February and reaches its peak in March. The birds migrate in smaller flocks and it can happen that real "choir singing" can be heard on the passage. The train can extend until the end of April and is completed by May at the latest.

Geographic variation

  • Turdus philomelos philomelos C. L. Brehm , 1831 - Europe (except in the west), northern Turkey, Transcaucasia and northern Iran
  • Turdus philomelos clarkei Hartert , 1909 - Western Europe
  • Turdus philomelos hebridensis W. E. Clarke , 1913 - West Scotland , Outer Hebrides , Isle of Skye and West Ireland .
  • Turdus philomelos nataliae Buturlin , 1929 - Western and Central Siberia

The populations in Australia and New Zealand are most likely descended from clarkei and are still very similar to this subspecies today.


The song thrush inhabits a variety of forest types , but shows a preference for conifers , lots and dense undergrowth, shade and high humidity. In contrast to other thrush species, it is not dependent on forest edge habitats or open areas for foraging. She is particularly fond of young spruce trees as a nesting opportunity.

In the Alps and the low mountain ranges, it is particularly found in forests with spruce and silver fir . These can be pure coniferous forests or mixed forests with spruce interspersed and undergrowth. In the pure deciduous forest it is usually less common.

In the lowlands it occurs in all forms of forest, except in undergrowth-free beech trees and similar habitats. Young spruce afforestations and moist habitats rich in undergrowth such as floodplain or bog forests are preferred . In addition, it occurs here in smaller habitats such as juniper heaths, field trees, rows of poplar trees with undergrowth and the like. Since the beginning of the 20th century, it has also increasingly penetrated urban living spaces such as garden settlements, parks and cemeteries.

In the north and at higher altitudes, the occurrence of the song thrush is limited by the lack of preferred forest forms, so its occurrence in Fennoscandia extends to the birch zone. In the south, the increasing aridity of the habitats limits their distribution. Their distribution there is often limited to mountain ranges.

Settlement density

The space requirement of the song thrush can, depending on the habitat, be between 0.16 in the Central European cultural landscape and 2.8 ha and more in the barren pine forest of Scandinavia. Since thrushes behave quite inconspicuously during the breeding season, the populations are often underestimated in settlement density studies. In parks and gardens, the settlement density is usually between 2 and 3 breeding pairs per 10 ha, in forests between 4 and 6 bp./10 ha. In humid locations such as alluvial forests and quarries, 8–10 bp./10 ha is often found higher densities. Particularly high values ​​were found with 15 bp./10 ha in old pine stands with blown hardwoods or mature oak-hornbeam forests and up to 34 bp./10 ha in old spruce stands.

Diet and Lifestyle

Like the blackbird, the song thrush hunts its food on the ground. It moves very quickly and then stops suddenly. Song thrushes feed on earthworms , insects or berries , but most likely not the fruits of mistletoe. Furthermore, snails are an important source of food. Here they prefer banded snails , whose shells they smash on a stone - the throttle forge - in order to get to the snail meat.



Two broods of the song thrush are raised between April and July. It breeds in a stable nest of grass and leaves in the forks of deciduous and coniferous trees . The hollow of the nest is made from damp wooden mulch . The clutch is sky blue in color. The incubation period is 12 to 14 days.


The maximum age of a song thrush known from the ringing of an animal is 18 years and six months.


  • UN Glutz von Blotzheim, KM Bauer : Handbook of the birds of Central Europe (HBV). Volume 11 / II: Passeriformes. Part 2: Real Thrushes: Turdidae. AULA-Verlag, ISBN 3-923527-00-4 .
  • L. Tomiałojć in WJM Hagemeijer, MJ Blair: The EBCC Atlas of European Breeding Birds - their distribution and abundance. T & AD Poyser, London 1997, ISBN 0-85661-091-7 .
  • L. Svensson, PJ Grant, K. Mularney, D. Zetterström: The new cosmos bird guide. Franckh-Kosmos Verlags-GmbH, Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-440-07720-9 .

Web links

Commons : Song Thrush ( Turdus philomelos )  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Svensson et al .: The new cosmos bird guide.
  2. Glutz v. Blotzheim, et al .: Handbook of the Birds of Central Europe (HBV). Volume 11 / II Real Thrushes: Turdidae, p. 1055f.
  3. Glutz v. Blotzheim, et al .: Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas, p. 1052.
  4. Glutz v. Blotzheim, et al .: Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas, p. 1070.
  5. Glutz v. Blotzheim, et al .: Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas, p. 1075ff.
  6. Hüppop, K. and O. Hüppop: Atlas for bird ringing on Helgoland. Vogelwarte 47, 2009, p. 215.