Are all Mistle Thrushes merely nondescript?

by Will Green

Over the last ten or so years many of us cognoscenti have lamented the disappearance of the common Mistle Thrush. However, a few incredulous critics were sceptical of me that on a winters morning I saw a flock of twenty-five in the parkland adjoining Woodmancote Church. Reply?  He can’t tell the difference between them and Fieldfares. Just ignore him! Nevertheless, I have birding kudos and they could be on the way back!

Although they are more impressive in stature than the Song Thrush, they are less than impressive in the singing department! Its song let’s be kind, is a something or nothing. Although its song travels long distances, very few lines are melodic. The overall pattern can be rambling with nowhere to go!

From my house which is about a quarter of a mile from Henfield Common, at certain times of the year a bird can be clearly heard. In early spring just after dawn, Mistles can continuously sing from the tops of trees to around midmorning.

They seem to have large territories and move frequently from tree to tree; I suppose to defend their territories. They find a prominent lofty perch to carry on the same monotonous song and keep other males at bay and of course to impress an easily impressed female! to On one occasion, I was walking my dog from the Common, cross country towards Bilsborough, which is roughly three-quarters of a mile away. Fortuitously or otherwise, a singing bird decided to take a similar course and I was able to hear him singing from various trees throughout the journey. We only lost touch on the track towards Blackstone village, when possibly he decided to return to base on the Common!

On the other hand, you can rely on the Song Thrush to stick to a more parochial territory. His singing empire may vary from one close tree to another, even when he tries to pull rank on one of its next-door neighbours. The Song Thrush with his impressive song the next day could be almost in the same spot, even after an unsuccessful altercation!

Mistles usually rove around their indeterminate territories. I’m not sure whether it’s because there are fewer of them and have license to roam. In my neck of the wood where they sing, I know of one bird that calls out from Woodmancote Place, another outside Libby Serpis’s next to the Common and one at Barrow Hill. Three territories cover over a distance of a mile and a half.

This morning a Mistle Thrush sang in my garden mid-distance between Libby’s and Woodmancote Place. Take your bets of where his territory is!

Before I disappear up a proverbial and morph into a birding nerd, I admit I find it interesting to pry into how the birds I see conduct their lives, however mundane! Although we occasionally succumb to coronaries from finding rare birds, we should also be inquisitive about ordinary events.

To support Mistle Thrushes, they are not always boring. Their song can be less than engaging and they are not the best lookers, but occasionally they try to live dangerously! If you see a bird’s nest that is precariously swaying about on a bough in strong winds in the middle of February. It might be a Mistle Thrush.