Wildlife

Gar­den­ing with their needs in mind will re­ally make a dif­fer­ence to the for­tunes of the species

Garden News (UK) - - Garden News - With Ju­lian Rollins

If you’re lucky, you may hear the clear, pip­ing sound of the song thrush at this end of au­tumn. It’s a sign that they’re check­ing out breed­ing ter­ri­to­ries for next spring. When the weather gets more win­try, they may wan­der else­where in search of food, but will be back when the time is right. If your gar­den falls into one of these ter­ri­to­ries, you’ll be in for a treat – the song thrush’s reper­toire is re­ally spe­cial.

Sadly, the song thrush is one of those gar­den birds that has had a tough time over the last half cen­tury or so. Their lives are quite hard; the av­er­age song thrush life­span is only be­tween three and four years.

The big­gest chal­lenges come dur­ing a bird’s first year. On av­er­age, out of ev­ery five young­sters that leave the nest in sum­mer, only one will sur­vive to raise a fam­ily of its own dur­ing the fol­low­ing year. Re­search has shown that song thrush for­tunes vary ac­cord­ing to where they live. Those that dwell in wood­land do fairly well, while the op­po­site is true of those that live in farmed coun­try­side.

Re­cent changes to the farm­ing land­scape have seen hedges, copses, ditches and ponds taken out. That has re­sulted in de­priv­ing song thrushes of places to for­age and nest. And the RSPB reck­ons that in many ar­eas of in­ten­sive farm­ing, song thrushes are only found in neigh­bour­ing gar­dens, or close to them. It seems that be­ing able to visit gar­dens makes life that bit eas­ier. So gar­den­ing with the needs of song thrushes in mind re­ally makes a dif­fer­ence to the for­tunes of the species. Even more so if your gar­den is close to farm­land.

Their needs are fairly sim­ple. Given the choice, song thrushes will eat earth­worms, but they need an al­ter­na­tive when the soil’s dry or frozen, mak­ing worms hard to get. That’s when they turn to small snails or slugs as the next best thing. In fact, they’ll hunt for all sorts of in­ver­te­brates.

Also, they share the thrush fam­ily en­thu­si­asm for fruit! At this time of year, song thrushes will eat hedgerow berries, while wind­fall ap­ples will also be a wel­come ad­di­tion to their diet. So, make your gar­den song thrush-friendly by: ● En­cour­ag­ing a rich and var­ied pop­u­la­tion of worms (and other in­ver­te­brates) by gar­den­ing with­out chem­i­cals. ● Grow­ing berry-bear­ing shrubs and trees, such as firethorn and rowan. Also leave some wind­fall ap­ples and crab ap­ples where they fall. ● Re­sist­ing the urge to clear away all fallen leaves. In­stead, brush some into cor­ners and the backs of beds, where they can rot down nat­u­rally (cre­at­ing liv­ing space for the bugs that keep thrushes well fed). ● Putting out food for thrushes, es­pe­cially dur­ing pro­longed cold spells, such as cur­rants, raisins and suet pel­lets. They pre­fer to feed at ground level.

Lis­ten out for the lovely song of the thrush

Keep an un­tidy spot where bugs can live, so thrushes have a tasty meal

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