BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Wild December -


A com­bi­na­tion of rusty-red flanks and un­der­wings along with a creamy-white su­per­cil­ium above the eye eas­ily dis­tin­guish the small­est of our na­tive thrushes. Ar­riv­ing in south­ern Bri­tain from Scan­di­navia, win­ter­ing flocks are gen­er­ally shy and eas­ily dis­turbed. Their soft, thin ‘ss­sip’ flight call is also im­me­di­ately di­ag­nos­tic, once learnt.


Slightly smaller than a mis­tle thrush, this win­ter vis­i­tor from northerly lat­i­tudes has a grey head and rump, which con­trasts with a chest­nut back and a spotty breast. With its dis­tinct ‘chack, chack, chack’ call, this bossy denizen of win­ter hedgerows and or­chards is fre­quently heard be­fore seen, so keep your eyes and ears open.

Mis­tle thrush

A ‘mis­tle’ on the ground ap­pears both larger and with greyer up­per­parts than its song thrush cousin. The dis­tinc­tive white un­der­wings and bound­ing flight should also clinch its iden­ti­fi­ca­tion in flight. The dry rat­tling call of this bold, ag­gres­sive thrush is fre­quently heard while it throws its weight around among the ap­ple trees ( right).


Only the males of this lar­gish war­bler have a black cap, as the crown of the fe­male is the colour of ter­ra­cotta. Bri­tish over­win­ter­ing black­caps are thought to hail from breed­ing pop­u­la­tions in Ger­many and north-east Europe and are com­monly seen in win­ter or­chards due to their fond­ness for mistle­toe berries.


This ev­er­green plant lives among the branches of soft-barked trees, such as ap­ple. Tap­ping into the nu­tri­ents of their host, each globe of veg­e­ta­tion is ei­ther a ‘male’ or ‘fe­male’. How­ever, birds are only in­ter­ested in fe­male plants, as they’re the ones with the berries.

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