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Fieldfare- THE BIRD

Fieldfares are common thrushes, quite well known to birders in the UK, Europe and areas to their north. They are conspicuous thrushes with very sociable habits which form large noisy flocks. The Fieldfare's diet is composed of insects and berries. Flocks of them commonly take advantage of windfalls in orchards and loudly announce their presence.

The scientific name for a Fieldfare is Turdus pilaris. Turdus is a name for the thrush family and pilaris is latin for hair or head. So named, they are large thrushes distinguished by their gray heads and the chevron shaped markings on their breasts. (See the article on classification of birds for more information on naming birds click here). Even though Fieldfares are old world migrants, they occasionally turn up as vagrants in North America. Their description is included in a lot of the North American Field Guides just in case one shows up in the US. In Europe there are several other thrushes that it could be confused with.

Here is a comparison of some similar looking birds, European ones first, then some look alike American birds for a possible vagrant sighting.

Fieldfare Turdus pilarus 25.5cm (10.04 in.)
These thrushes are a little larger than a European blackbird with a red or chestnut colored back. The light colored breast is speckled with chevrons, a noticeable V shaped pattern turned upside down. Beaks are a light color. Its head and rump are Gray and the white under-wing helps distinguish it from some similar looking birds. The call is a noisy, crackling chuck sound.
European birds with similar field marks to Fieldfares: Blackbird (females and juveniles.), Song Thrush, Redwing, and Mistle Thrush

Blackbird Turdus merula 23 cm (9.06 in)
Females and young are brown with a spotted or flecked lighter colored brown breast somewhat like a Fieldfare but, a blackbird has a dark beak and is slightly smaller than a Fieldfare.

Song Thrush Turdus philomelos 23cm (9.06 in.)
Birds are brown above with spots on a lighter breast. They lack the gray head, are smaller and show an orange-colored underwing when seen in flight.

Redwing Turdus iliacus 21cm (8.27 in)
These birds are distinguished by the white stripe over the eye and their noticeably smaller size. In flight dark red under, Noct. Mig winter visitor

Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorous 27cm(10.63 in)
Slightly larger than a Fieldfare there is more gray on this bird than on a Song Thrush, has large spots on its pale breast and it has a proportionately smaller looking head. The similarity to a Fieldfare is the white underwing shown in flight.

US birds that are close in identification to a Fieldfare

American RobinTurdus migratorious 9-11 in.(23-28cm) Young American Robins have a speckled breast and are about the same size. Vagrant Fieldfares that make it to the states have been found joining up with flocks of American Robins, perhaps because of their similar feeding and socialization habits.

Other thrushes in the US that have that spotted breasts and are approximately the same size are, Wood Thrush, Hermit Thrush and Swainson's Thrush, but they all have the overall redish brown color without any gray.

Watch a Video! Fieldfares do have an interesting defense behavior and it's not pretty. As a flock, they group together to drive off predators by flying over them and defecating on the targets. It does not sound like such a big deal at first but the repeated soiling of a bird's feathers can cause it to become soaked and lose its ability to thermoregulate causing its death. In this video, world renoun Zoologist, David Attenborough captures the Fieldfare's mobbing behavior as it defends its nestlings against a Raven. Fieldfare Video from Life of Birds

January 2010 - Fieldfares are being sighted in large numbers in the UK
Here are some helpful links to Fieldfare sightings-
Fieldfare Irruption 2010

Fieldfare-THE Company

I get a lot of use out of my field guides and always want one right with me when I am birding or even in the car as a quick reference. I also take notes on certain identification tips that I've learned from other bird watchers and write them down right next to the species they refer to. After destroying book after book pulling it in and out of a zippered field bag, I thought I would find a way to save the book and carry it too. Since my binos were always around my neck anyway, it did not have to be complex. I came up with my field guide covers and a way to stop the books from sliding out of the cover.
When I decided to make and market them I had no idea what to name my company. Thousands of bird names and which one should I use? My solution: I handed my Peterson's East to my mother and told her to pick a good name for me and then went out to lunch. When I came back, she had found one; Fieldfare. A bird's name which inverted, seems like fare for the field. I never had heard of one before or seen one, but why not? Later on I found out about the Fieldfare's behavior, bombing their enemies with poo and hope that no one has made that association with my company. Thanks Mom!

(Ref- Green, Paul. Birding Vol.30, No.3. June 1998.)

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