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