Mistle thrush is early nester
On a wet and miserable January morning it’s cheering to hear the sound of a mistle thrush proclaiming his territory. Once known in the countryside as the stormcock, these birds seem to relish singing in the most unpleasant conditions, raising their far-carrying notes above the sound of the drumming rain.
A mistle thrush’s song is not unlike that of a blackbird, with long, clear and carefully enunciated phrases, though it lacks the latter’s melody.
Despite the fact that mistle thrushes are widespread throughout much of Britain, they don’t really qualify as garden birds even if they do frequently come into large gardens to feed and even nest. They are happiest in parks, on playing fields or in paddocks in the country and don’t like the confines of any but the biggest gardens.
They are easily confused with their smaller cousin, the song thrush, but look for the former’s bigger spots on the breast that extend all the way down to the belly. Another good field mark is the white outer tail feathers, a feature the song thrush lacks.
Mistle thrushes are early nesters and frequently have their first clutch completed by the end of March. This does make them specially vulnerable to marauding magpies, jays and crows but they are fierce birds, quite capable of chasing off their enemies, all the time sounding their football-rattle like alarm call. Once the breeding season is over family parties join together in big roving bands but by late autumn these flocks have broken up and the individual birds will soon be back on their breeding territories.