Quick facts

Common names: mistle thrush

Scientific name: Turdus viscivorus

Family: Turdidae (thrushes)

Habitat: woodland, parks and gardens

Diet: berries, earthworms, slugs and insects

Predators: domestic cats, foxes and birds of prey

Origin: native

What do mistle thrushes look like?

The largest thrush species in the UK, the mistle thrush measures around 28cm in length. It has greyish-brown upperparts, a long tail and a plump white belly with heavy, dark brown spots. Its legs are yellow-brown in colour.

Not to be confused with: the song thrush, which is much smaller and has warmer brown tones.

What do mistle thrushes eat?

The mistle thrush eats berries, seeds and fruit, as well as worms and insects, and is named after its love of mistletoe berries in particular. It is fiercely territorial when it comes to food, guarding its food sources (such as holly bushes or rowan trees) closely, often with two birds defending the same area.

Mistle thrush feeding chicks at nest

Credit: Jim Hallett / naturepl.com

How do mistle thrushes breed?

These birds usually breed from February to May, with the female building a big, messy nest in the fork of a tree. Mistle thrush nests are made out of mud, leaves and grasses. Around 3-6 eggs are laid, hatching after two weeks. Chicks fledge after approximately 15-20 days.

Where do mistle thrushes live?

Mistle thrushes are found in woodland, parks and gardens. They are widespread across the UK but are absent from some Scottish isles and areas of extremely high, bare ground.

Did you know?

This hungry bird's Latin name translates to 'devourer of mistletoe'.

Signs and spotting tips

Listen out for the sharp chattering noises these birds make when disturbed – they are particularly prone to making these warning calls during strong winds. As they are garden visitors, adding seeds and fruit to your bird feeder is a good way of attracting them. Or, if you have any berry bushes nearby, chances are these birds might be guarding them!

Threats and conservation

Unfortunately mistle thrush populations in the UK have been in decline since the 1970s. It is believed this could be due to increased infant mortality. The bird is classified as a red (high concern) species and is protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Keep exploring