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A frequent visitor to Dorset in harsh winters driven south looking for food.


Fieldfare: blind faith

Post date: Saturday, 5 November, 2016 - 21:37

Although it was back in the winter of 2010 I remember well sitting in a favourite cafe in Swanage over looking the beach. There was a bitter east wind and it had been snowing, not really the day for doing much else other than staying in doors and drinking coffee. As we looked out to sea we saw several birds flying in, followed by more, then even more. I estimate that they were coming in at around twenty a minute and as we were there an hour or so we probably saw over 1000 birds come in and that was just where we were sat. The vast majority of these birds were fieldfare (Turdus pilaris)  but there were a good number of redwing and pipits too. They seemed to be coming from the South East so presumably bad weather in northern France had driven them westwards.

After that Purbeck was full of these birds and they turned up regularly in our garden and eating us out of apples! Large flocks of fieldfare and redwing are not uncommon here in most winters. Flocks of over 1,000 can be seen feeding together on the ground in fields. Fieldfare and redwing tend to keep each other company and you rarely see one without the other close by.

They breed in northern and eastern Europe, particularly Scandinavia, but when winter comes they head south in enormous numbers and it was wonderful to watch them come pouring in off the sea after what must have been an epic journey. How did they know that when they flew off over the coast in France out to sea they would find land? Did they know or was it blind faith?


Fieldfare in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Post date: Sunday, 24 February, 2019 - 19:07

The fieldfare is a common winter visitor to Dorset but the times of their appearance and the numbers seen can vary each winter. This is because the fieldfare seems to live on the edge, they keep just ahead of any bad weather that will impact their ability to feed. They are primarily a Scandinavian breeding species but in winter form nomadic flocks that are mobile and always willing to move on when the going gets tough. They eat both invertebrates, especially worms, and berries and so can be seen foraging on soft ground in fields and in hedgerows and trees laden with fruits. As the ground freezes and berry stock are depleted they move on.

The weekly reports chart quite clearly show this behavior. Fieldfare are absent from Dorset between week 16 at the end of April and week 42 in mid October. During the period outside this gap they are seen here on most weeks but the number of records is variable. There are distinct peaks occurring later in the winter as harsher conditions further north take hold and flocks then can be in excess of a thousand in extreme cases.

Whilst the distribution map shows a preference for coastal locations I am sure this is due to the increased coverage these sites get and that you can potentially encounter fieldfare anywhere in the county. If the weather is particularly bad here then they will move on in search of food and so coastal reports may well indicate an exodus across the Channel.

To tick off fieldfare on your Dorset list just wait for bad weather and then head out looking for them, you can encounter them nearly anywhere, they even come in to gardens.


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Fieldfare
Scientific Name Turdus pilaris
Status Occasional
Interest Level
Species Family Thrushes
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
Preferred Environment
  • Farmland
  • Hedgerows
Look for Groups of large greyish thrushes feeding on berries
Additional Identification Notes
  • A winter visitor from Europe
  • Some years they can come in large numbers and others they can be scarce
  • Gregarious and always seen in flocks, often in the company of redwing
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