What’s so musical about a song thrush?

Whenever anyone talks about song thrushes (particularly as it now seems as though they are yet another previously common bird that are apparently in decline) they always seem to wax lyrical about their song (I guess that explains the name; turdus musicus).

This has always been a bit of a mystery to me. When I grew up we used to have a large tree at the bottom of the garden on which a male blackbird used to perch and sing every evening. To me this always seemed more musical than the song thrush. It is certainly a more varied song than that of the song thrush which is a bit repetitive.

However, I am now changing my opinion. After starting my contribution to Nature’s Calendar late last year I have been listening out for song thrushes to see if they are singing all through the Winter or not. Yes, you’ve guessed it they are – there are two round here, one on the old railway track that I can hear through the double glazing and another closer to work, both of which have cheered otherwise dull, dark Winter days as I slogged to work through the rain.

I have never really thought twice about the thrush’s song until recently, in fact it is only in the last year that I realised how recognisable its depth makes it. I then started to wonder why it is so well loved as to even give rise to the latin name, after all robins are pretty musical, not to mention nightingales, but they are apparently not musicus enough. It was then that I found a quote in an old book that I have (British Birds and Their Haunts) that was published nearly 100 years ago that I think sums it up eloquently. ‘However near it may be, its song is never harsh, and heard at a distance its only defect is, that it is not nearer.’

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