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 Fieldfare - Fact File


Turdus pilaris
Although a few pairs breed most years at scattered locations in England and Scotland, is best known as a common winter visitor (mostly from Scandinavia) to the whole of Britain and Ireland.
Fields, open country and hedgerows. Visits gardens in hard weather.

A gregarious thrush often found with Redwings. Distinguished by combination of grey and chestnut-brown.

25cm (10")


During Autumn, flights of noisily calling fieldfares often pass low over our garden heading into a fresh south-westerly wind. However, not all these visitors survive the over-night flight from southern Norway.

Their remains may mark the tidelines for days. Robber gulls, too, cause casualties. Waiting until the fieldfares have almost reached the shore a gauntlet of great black-backed gulls will pounce on the weary birds forcing them into the surf. Exhausted they become easy prey.

An abundant winter visitor to Norfolk, the fieldfare's distribution varies, at times surprisingly, from winter to winter. The flocks arriving here soon make their way inland. Some years the first arrivals take place during August. In severe winters fieldfares are forced to retreat from East Anglia and they then head westward across the Irish Sea.

Fieldfare: photo © Lurii Konoval

Fieldfares breed in Scandinavia and the former Soviet Union including the Baltic States. In central Europe the breeding range has extended to Holland, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and France.

Only a proportion of the Scandinavian fieldfares migrate. The remainder spend the winter in their home countries, often in very large numbers. Breeding habits are as irregular as their migrations. In some years the birds are abundant in the Lapland birch forests; but in other breeding seasons they are absent.

The first known breeding of fieldfares in Britain was in 1967 when a pair nested in Orkney. Very small numbers have continued nesting fairly regularly in Scotland and the Peak District. In Scandinavia fieldfares visit gardens and parks in late summer and autumn to feed on a variety of berries. In this country, unless the weather is severe, the birds frequent open country associating with redwings, blackbirds and yellowhammers. Fieldfares find their food (including slugs, insects and earthworms) on the ground often locating it more by sound then sight.

Towards dusk, each flock settles down for the night, sometimes in a hedge or a plantation, but often along the furrows of a ploughed field or in the marshes. If a tall hedge is selected, all alight to face in the same direction.

By mid-November normal fieldfare emigration in Scandinavia is at an end unless weather conditions become severe. Then and particularly if the berry crop fails, 'weather migrants' may arrive in East Anglia at any time during December or even in January. Like waxwings, fieldfares are nomadic and show no allegiance to regular wintering areas.

In succeeding winters birds have been recovered up to 1000 miles distant.

.By Michael J Seago

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Illustrations by Dave Nurney from - The Pocket Guide to the Birds Of Britain and North-West Europe By Chris Kightley and Steve Madge
© Pica Press and reproduced with kind permission.