Where are all the thrushes?

01 Dec 2013 | No. 2013-59

Every winter hundreds of thousands of thrushes leave continental Europe to spend the winter months on this side of the North Sea. Once here they can seemingly disappear into the countryside, and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) would like to know where they go, what resources they need to survive to next spring and what habitats they are to be found using while they are here. The last estimates of the winter population were over 30 years ago and they would like to update these too.

For the second winter running the BTO are asking people to take part in the Winter Thrushes Survey to help find the answers to these questions. Last winter’s provisional results showed that Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Mistle Thrushes, Redwings and Fieldfares, spent the early part of the winter feeding on berries in trees and hedgerows, moving to ground feeding for the latter part of the winter as these supplies ran low. With the bumper crop of berries and the mild conditions, will the same be true this winter?

John Marchant, BTO Winter Thrushes Survey Organiser, commented, “The information provided by members of the public is revealing some amazing patterns of use of the countryside by these fascinating birds – what they are feeding on and how they move around the country, but we need a second winter’s worth of information to build on the first.”

He added, “Getting out into the countryside in search of thrushes can also turn up a few surprises. One Winter Thrushes surveyor found an American Robin on his local patch on South Uist, Outer Hebrides. Not only might we learn about birds such as this but the more people that take part the more gaps we can fill in our understanding of our winter thrushes in general.”

Every new volunteer can add valuable data to this survey, especially for the core counts between 27 December and 10 January – though the main survey runs until mid April. For more information on how to take part, please visit www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/winter-thrushes or telephone 01842 750050

Notes for Editors

  1. The UK countryside supports large numbers of several thrush species through the winter. The Winter Thrushes Survey aims to find out more about their numbers and distribution, and the resources that they need to survive to spring and the next breeding season. For more information please visit here.
  2. The BTO is the UK's leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the BTO's surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. The BTO's work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation organisations. www.bto.org

Contact Details

John Marchant
(Projects Co-ordinator)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email: winter.thrushes [at] bto.org

Paul Stancliffe
(BTO Media Manager)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Mobile: 07585 440910 (anytime)
Email: press [at] bto.org

Images are available for use alongside this News Release.
Please contact images [at] bto.org quoting reference 2013-59

The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews.
Please contact us to book an interview
Office: 01842 750050

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