The Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris), or ”räksä” (from the Finnish name, Räkättirastas, literally ”the Yawping Thrush”) isn’t a particularly respected bird in Finland. It has been widely considered to be quite the berry snatcher, causing the bird to be persecuted harshly. Originally the species, nesting in all of Finland, has been a wilderness bird, but nowadays the majority of our Fieldfares nests in cities and towns, or in their outskirts. The bird is a partial summer visitor, but in the recent years it has become common for large groups to spend the winter here. For decades the Fieldfare has lingered here even after the winter’s arrival, with their autumn migration taking place as late as February.
In terms of numbers, the Fieldfare is our eighth most numerous nesting bird, and the second most numerous of our thrushes of the Turdus-family. By the current estimate, this colonial thrush boasts over a million couples.
The bird has earned its Finnish name, and almost all of its nicknames, due to its voice, which no-one in their right mind would describe as being beautiful. “The name doesn’t make a man worse” as the Finnish proverb goes, and the Fieldfare has carried its official name with dignity for over 150 years. At the 18th century the bird was called a backwoods thrush due to its habitat at those times.
In terms of appearance, the Fieldfare of ours is handsome, with 27 centimeters worth of body mass, and the stylish gray head and upper rump making it easy to identify. Especially when taking off to flight, the gray upper rump distinguishes the Fieldfare from our other thrushes of the Turdus. The breast and the sides are strongly spotted and rusty brown in color. The tail is long and strong, as is the bird’s general appearance.
The Fieldfare begins to nest at the end of April, in colonies at town parks, graveyards and forests at the outskirts. A second nesting also occurs regularly, but in this case the colonial attribute isn’t as prevalent and the nesting takes place in some other location than the first nest, usually in forests at the shores of bodies of water. The couples have their own little territories within a colony, but if threatened, the colony is defended by all of the thrushes in unison. The intruder is attacked with a cacophony of sounds and a bombardment of feces, causing nest robbers and other threatening creatures to get a good whopping. Because of this, many more frail species like to nest within the colony, safe from nest robbers and small predators.
The Fieldfare female constructs the nest on a fairly visible spot on a branch of a tree within the territory the male has claimed, without bothering to hide it much – so high is their trust in their group’s ability to repel enemies. The female lays three to seven grayish-green, brown-spotted eggs and broods them for two weeks. Both parents feed the hatchlings with worms, snails, insects and spiders. The young birds stay in the nest for about two weeks, but develop at different times due to not having hatched simultaneously. After about a month, the young birds are on their own, even though they still keep begging for food for several weeks afterwards.
Towards the winter, the Fieldfare’s diet begins to include more berries, with them enjoying both strawberries and currants. Once blueberries and huckleberries ripen, the birds move in to the forests to feast. Later at autumn, they become interested in tree berries, especially rowans, hawthorns and bird cherries topping their favourite-lists.
- Turdus viscivorus Mistle Thrush kulorastas
- Turdus leucomelas Pale-breasted Thrush harmaapäärastas
- Turdus aurantius White-chinned Thrush jamaikanrastas
- Turdus olivaceofuscus Gulf of Guinea Thrush guineanlahdenrastas
- Turdus torquatus Ring Ouzel sepelrastas