This thrush is the smallest in the Western Palearctic and easy to identify. Apart from its small size it has a distinctive eyestripe and dark red armpits. The plaintive 'zeeez' which it uses in flight as a contact call - even at night on migration - is also a good feature.
These birds breed from Iceland (separate and bigger race) right round Northern Europe and Northern Asia until they reach North of Kamchatka. All move West for the winter to Western and Southern Europe and a small part of the Near East. They by no means always come back to the same wintering area and many ringed in Britain in one winter are found in Greece or the Caucasus in the next.
They feed invertebrates and form flocks with Fieldfares in the winter. If it freezes they often invade gardens to feed on berries and fruit. They are very frustrating birds as they are at the bottom of the thrush pecking order and refuse any sort of artificial food - it must be fruit! In really cold weather if you are unable to feed fruit they simply starve. This is a species newly colonising the North of Scotland and it is possible as many as 100 pairs may breed in a good year.
A small dark thrush with red underwing and an eyestripe.
(Closed wing of Icelandic race bigger - 122 mm)
Length 210 mm Closed wing 115 mm Weight 62 gms
A Bird On! Sketch by Chris Mead
Copyright © 1996 by Jacobi Jayne & Company and Chris Mead