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Feature Creature - Fieldfare

Credits: Amy Lewis

Welcome to the FIELDFARE feature creature. These rowdy thrushes visit the UK during autumn and winter to gobble up fruit and berries. Look for flocks of them flying over farmland and listen for their loud, chattering calls!

Fantastic facts:


*Favourite foods: apples, berries, insects and worms      *Size: similar to a large blackbird


*Enemies: birds of prey, strong winds during migration     *Life span: Around 2 years in the wild


*Super power: Aggressive guarding. Fieldfares will chase other birds away from fallen apples or berry trees they want to keep to themselves. Predators near their nest should also beware - they pelt enemies with poo! 


*Latin name: Turdus pilaris (turdus = thrush)    


But what are these colourful thrushes and what can they do? Fieldfares are:


Winter visitors


Fieldfares start to arrive in the UK in October. They migrate from Scandinavia and continental Europe, often appearing in the east of England and then spreading across the rest of the UK throughout the winter.


But why do they come all this way? If you get the chance to watch a flock of fieldfares in a hedgerow, you may get some clues. They're often seen gobbling up fruits and berries like fallen apples, rowan berries, hawthorn berries and rose hips. 


In cold years when winter weather is harsh, hundreds of thousands of fieldfares pour into the UK in search of these fruits after eating up the supplies in their home countries. Most will return home again in the early spring, but a handful have been known to breed in the Peak District and Scotland.


Food hoarders   


When you've come all that way for a bite to eat, you might become a little protective of your food. Fieldfares, as well as mistle thrushes, are famous for guarding a favourite fruit tree or berry bush for weeks at a time, often chasing much bigger birds (and people!) away from it.


Try leaving fallen fruit in your garden overwinter for birds like fieldfares and see if one claims the stash. Other favourites are rowan trees with plentiful berries. You might also attact birds like redwings or waxwings in particularly harsh winters.


Image credits: Perched fieldfare (c) Bob Coyle / Fieldfare with berry (c) Stefan Johansson