Song Thrush

Turdus philomelos

Last updated: May 27, 2024
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Johan C. op den Dries/

A male song thrush can have over 100 phrases in his repertoire of songs and can imitate pet birds, telephones and other man-made objects.


Song Thrush Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Turdus philomelos

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Song Thrush Conservation Status

Song Thrush Locations

Song Thrush Locations

Song Thrush Facts

Insects and their larvae, snails, earthworms, slugs
Fun Fact
A male song thrush can have over 100 phrases in his repertoire of songs and can imitate pet birds, telephones and other man-made objects.
Estimated Population Size
75 million to about 120 million birds.
Biggest Threat
Habitat disruption
Most Distinctive Feature
its song
Other Name(s)
Throstle, mavis
13.38 inches
Incubation Period
10-17 days
Litter Size
four to five
Woods, temperate forests, scrub, shrublands, mountains, farms, gardens, parks
Birds of prey, cats, dogs, humans
Common Name
song thrush
Number Of Species
Europe, North Africa, Middle East, New Zealand, Australia
Average Clutch Size
Nesting Location
In a tree, in shrubs or creepers, on the ground
Age of Molting
two weeks

Song Thrush Physical Characteristics

  • Brown
  • Yellow
  • Cream
Top Speed
35 mph
three to ten years
1.76 to 3.77 ounces, females a bit heavier
7.87 to 9.45 inches

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“The blithe throstle”

Though it’s a plain-looking little bird with plumage in colors of brown and buff, the song thrush is renowned for the beauty of its song. Indeed, it is so melodic that poets such as Wordsworth and Thomas Hardy have written poems to it. Yet this thrush, like so many others, is a fierce little predator, a determined migrant, and a doting parent. Read on for some facts about the song thrush.

Where To Find the Song Thrush

The habitat of the song thrush is extensive, and it is found in forests, mountains, shrublands, and woods. It is very fond of backyard gardens, urban parks, and farms. In other words, it inhabits temperate areas where food is abundant.

Song Thrush Nests

Song thrushes build their nests in trees, bushes, or creeping vines. Turdus philomelos hebridensis actually builds its nest on the ground. The nest is cup-shaped, tidy, and lined with dry grass, and cemented with dung and mud.

Scientific Name

The song thrush’s scientific name is Turdus philomelos. Turdus is Latin for “thrush” and philomelos comes from the Greek philo, whose meaning is “loving” and melos, whose meaning is “song.” So the meaning of the bird’s name may be “the thrush that loves to sing.” Besides this, the bird was named after Philomela, a princess in Greek mythology who had her tongue cut out but was changed into a singing bird. The song thrush has three subspecies:

  • Turdus philonmelos philomelos
  • Turdus philomelos clarkei
  • Turdus philomelos hebridensis


This bird is small and measures 7.87 to 9.45 inches long and weighs about 1.76 to 3.77 ounces. It is dark brown on top and cream or buff below, and its breast and belly are spotted. Its feet and legs are pink, and males and females are similar. Identification of the song thrush can be tricky because the colors of its feathers make it look very much like its cousins the redwing and the mistle thrush.

Identifying a song thrush is sometimes hard because of the color of its feathers.

©Rudmer Zwerver/

Song Thrush vs. Mistle Thrush

The song and mistle thrushes look very much alike, but identification of the mistle thrush is helped by the fact that it is a much bigger bird and has white at the corners of its tail feathers. It is 11 inches long, weighs up to 5.9 ounces, and has an 18-inch wingspan. Another key to identification is that the mistle thrush is paler and its spots are rounder than the spots of the song thrush.


These birds aren’t particularly gregarious even though they can tolerate each other. They can be seen with other types of thrushes as they search for food, and they form flocks when they migrate. They eat invertebrates as well as soft fruits such as blackberries, and when they hunt they use a run and stop technique. The bird also uses its bill to thrash and poke through the duff looking for prey.

The song thrush is one of the few songbirds that eat snails, and birdwatchers notice that they use a favorite stone to crack the snail’s shell open. When that’s accomplished, the bird wipes the snail’s body on the ground before it eats. The bird also starts to sing a bit later in the morning than other songbirds such as blackbirds. Besides its song, the thrush has calls that warn of predators and are used to stay in contact with other birds as they migrate. The calls of the song thrush are surprisingly loud for its size.

Song Thrush Migration Pattern and Timing

Not all populations of song thrushes migrate, but those that do are usually found in the eastern and northern areas of the bird’s range. These birds fly south, usually from September to the middle of December though some can start as early as August. Not all fly to the tropics. Some simply hop over the North Sea from the Netherlands to spend the winter in the south of England.

The bird flies at night, and its fight is described as both strong and direct. The birds call to each other as they fly.


This bird takes invertebrates such as insects, snails, slugs, and earthworms and eats berries. Because it does eat berries, the thrush may not be the favorite of people who grow fruit such as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and currants.

Predators and Threats

Interestingly, humans use the song thrush as food and still do. It is still legal to hunt the migratory birds in Spain, France, and New Zealand. Other predators include owls, cats, magpies, squirrels, and sparrowhawks, which take eggs and chicks. Once in a while, a cuckoo tries to lay its egg in a song thrush’s nest, but the song thrush recognizes the egg and simply rolls it out.

Song thrushes are also vulnerable to parasites such as Trypanosomas and disease-carrying ticks. Because of this, the thrush may be a reservoir of Lyme disease.

Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

The song thrush raises two to three broods every year, and the breeding season stretches from early spring into late summer. Male and female song thrushes are monogamous, and the male returns to their breeding area before the female and defends a territory. The female carefully builds the nest among the leaves of trees, shrubs, or creepers or even among weeds and grasses on the ground.

The female lays three to five eggs, laying an egg a day. The eggs are a beautiful sky blue flecked with black or purple. The chicks hatch after about two weeks. Only the mother broods the chicks, but both the male and female parents feed them. They’re ready to fly after about a week and are independent about three weeks after that. This is the time when fledglings are looked after by their father while their mother gets ready to lay another clutch of eggs. Still, the mortality of chicks is high, and only a third of them live to fledge. If they make it to adulthood, their lifespan is three to as many as 10 years.

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Song Thrush FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Is a song thrush rare?

Song thrushes are not rare. There are tens of millions of song thrushes.

What is the difference between a thrush and a song thrush?

A song thrush is a type of thrush, but identification from other thrushes can be told through subtly different colors, size, the call or the song or even the shape of the spots on the breast.

What is a song thrush called?

A song thrush is called a mavis or a throstle. One of the more interesting facts about the bird is that the mavis is the male thrush.

Is the song thrush endangered?

The bird is not endangered, though its population has declined in some areas.

Where do song thrushes go in winter?

Some song thrushes from northern Europe go no further south than southern England. Others go to the Mediterranean, the Middle East or North Africa to spend the winter.

What color is a male thrush?

A male song thrush has a brown top and a buff, cream, or yellowish breast and abdomen covered with dark spots. Male and female thrushes have the same plumage, but she has more spots and is a little fatter.

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  1. ITIS / Accessed December 26, 2021
  2. BirdLifeInternational / Accessed December 26, 2021
  3. Wikipedia / Accessed December 26, 2021
  4. DiscoverWildlife / Accessed December 26, 2021