Thrush (bird)

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Psophocichla litsitsirupa (Etosha).jpg
Groundscraper thrush (Turdus litsitsirupa)
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Suborder: Passeri
Family: Turdidae
Rafinesque, 1815

The thrushes are a passerine bird family, Turdidae, with a worldwide distribution. The family was once much larger before biologists determined that the former subfamily Saxicolinae, which includes the chats and European robins, are Old World flycatchers. Thrushes are small to medium-sized ground living birds that feed on insects, other invertebrates and fruit. Some unrelated species around the world have been named after thrushes due to their similarity to birds in this family.



Thrushes are plump, soft-plumaged, small to medium-sized birds, inhabiting wooded areas, and often feeding on the ground. The smallest thrush may be the forest rock thrush, at 21 g (34 oz) and 14.5 cm (5+34 in). However, the shortwings, which have ambiguous alliances with both thrushes and Old World flycatchers, can be even smaller. The lesser shortwing averages 12 cm (4+12 in). The largest thrush is the Great thrush at 128 to 175 g (4+12 to 6+18 oz) and 28 to 33 cm (11 to 13 in), though the commonly recognized Blue whistling-thrush is an Old world flycatcher. [1] The Amami thrush might, however, grow larger than the Great thrush. Most species are grey or brown in colour, often with speckled underparts.

They are insectivorous, but most species also eat worms, land snails, and fruit (usually berries). Many species are permanently resident in warm climates, while others migrate to higher latitudes during summer, often over considerable distances. [2]

Thrushes build cup-shaped nests, sometimes lining them with mud. They lay two to five speckled eggs, sometimes laying two or more clutches per year. Both parents help in raising the young. [2] In almost all cases, the nest is placed on a branch; the only exceptions are the three species of bluebird, which nest in holes.


Turdidae species spread the seeds of plants, contributing to the dispersal of many species and the recovery of ecosystems.

Plants have limited seed dispersal mobility away from the parent plant and consequently rely upon a variety of dispersal vectors to transport their propagules, including both abiotic and biotic vectors. Seeds can be dispersed away from the parent plant individually or collectively, as well as dispersed in both space and time.

Many bats and birds rely heavily on fruits for their diet, including birds in the families Cotingidae, Columbidae, Trogonidae, Turdidae, and Ramphastidae. While eating fruit, these animals swallow seeds and then later regurgitate them or pass them in their faeces. Such ornithochory has been a major mechanism of seed dispersal across ocean barriers.

Other seeds may stick to the feet or feathers of birds, and in this way may travel long distances. Seeds of grasses, spores of algae, and the eggs of molluscs and other invertebrates commonly establish in remote areas after long journeys of this sort. The Turdidae have a great ecological importance because some populations migrate long distances and disperse the seeds of endangered plant species at new sites, helping to eliminate inbreeding and increasing the genetic diversity of local flora.

A Dusky thrush in Tokyo.


The family Turdidae was introduced (as Turdinia) by the French polymath Constantine Samuel Rafinesque in 1815. [3] [4] The taxonomic treatment of this large family has varied significantly in recent years. Traditionally, the Turdidae included the small Old World species, like the nightingale and European robin in the subfamily Saxicolinae, but most authorities now place this group in the Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae. Molecular phylogenetic analysis has shown that the family Turdidae is a member of the superfamily Muscicapoidea and is sister to the family Muscicapidae. The two families diverged in the Miocene around 17 million years ago. [5]

The family formerly included more species. At the time of the publication of the third edition of Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World in 2003, the genera Myophonus , Alethe , Brachypteryx and Heinrichia were included in Turdidae. [6] Subsequent molecular phylogenetic studies have shown that the species in these four genera are more closely related to species in the family Muscicapidae. [7] [8] As a consequence, these four genera are now placed in Muscicapidae. [9] [10] In contrast, the genus Cochoa which had previously been placed in Muscicapidae was shown to belong in Turdidae. [7] [8]

Redwing, Fieldfare, Ring ouzel Vogels door Jan van Oort (02).jpg
Redwing, Fieldfare, Ring ouzel


The family contains 174 species which are divided into 18 genera: [9]

See list of thrush species for more detail.


The thrush is one of the many kinds of small bird that have in the past been trapped and eaten in much of Europe; the practice is now rare. [11] Among traditional ways of cooking thrush were with polenta or grilled on a skewer, in Italy; with juniper berries in Belgium; and made into a pâté or terrine. [11] The French cook and cookery writer Marie-Antoine Carême recommended cooking thrushes in crépinettes and serving with sauce Périgueux. [12]

Related Research Articles

Chat (bird) Subfamily of birds

Chats are a group of small Old World insectivorous birds formerly classified as members of the thrush family (Turdidae), but following genetic DNA analysis, are now considered to belong to the Old World flycatcher family (Muscicapidae).

Wheatear Genus of birds

The wheatears are passerine birds of the genus Oenanthe. They were formerly considered to be members of the thrush family, Turdidae, but are now more commonly placed in the flycatcher family, Muscicapidae. This is an Old World group, but the northern wheatear has established a foothold in eastern Canada and Greenland and in western Canada and Alaska.

Old World flycatcher Family of birds

The Old World flycatchers are a large family, the Muscicapidae, of small passerine birds mostly restricted to the Old World. These are mainly small arboreal insectivores, many of which, as the name implies, take their prey on the wing. The family includes 324 species and is divided into 51 genera.

Rock thrush Genus of birds

The rock thrushes, Monticola, are a genus of chats, medium-sized mostly insectivorous or omnivorous songbirds. All are Old World birds, and most are associated with mountainous regions.

<i>Alethe</i> (bird) Genus of birds

Alethe is a genus of small mainly insectivorous birds in the Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae that occur in West Africa.

Scrub robin Genus of birds

The scrub robins or bush chats are medium-sized insectivorous birds in the genus Cercotrichas. They were formerly in the thrush family, (Turdidae), but are more often now treated as part of the Old World flycatcher family, (Muscicapidae). They are not closely related to the Australian scrub-robins, genus Drymodes in the family Petroicidae.

<i>Cochoa</i> Genus of birds

The cochoas are medium-sized frugivorous, insectivorous and molluscivorous birds in the genus Cochoa. Their bright contrasting plumage patterns, sexual dimorphism and feeding habits made their systematic position difficult to ascertain in early times, Richard Bowdler Sharpe placed them with the Prionopidae in 1879 while many considered them as some kind of aberrant thrush. The genus was previously included in the Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae but molecular phylogenetic studies have shown that it is more closely related to the thrush family Turdidae.

Blue rock thrush Species of bird

The blue rock thrush is a species of chat. This thrush-like Old World flycatcher was formerly placed in the family Turdidae. It breeds in southern Europe, northwest Africa, and from Central Asia to northern China and Malaysia. The blue rock thrush is the official national bird of Malta and was shown on the Lm 1 coins that were part of the country's former currency.

Siberian blue robin Species of bird

The Siberian blue robin is a small passerine bird that was formerly classified as a member of the thrush family, Turdidae, but is now more generally considered to belong to the Old World flycatcher family, Muscicapidae. It and similar small European species are often called chats. Recent research suggests that this species and some other East Asian members of Luscinia should be classified in a new genus, together with the Japanese and Ryūkyū robins. The genus name Larvivora comes from the new Latin larva meaning caterpillar and -vorus meaning eating, and cyane is Latin for "dark-blue".

<i>Saxicola</i> Genus of birds

Saxicola, the stonechats or chats, is a genus of 15 species of small passerine birds restricted to the Old World. They are insectivores occurring in open scrubland and grassland with scattered small shrubs.

<i>Brachypteryx</i> Genus of birds

Brachypteryx is a genus of passerine birds containing six species known as shortwings, that occurs in southeast Asia.

Mountain wheatear Species of bird

The mountain wheatear or mountain chat is a small insectivorous passerine bird that is endemic to southwestern Africa.

Nilgiri blue robin Species of bird

The Nilgiri blue robin, also known as Nilgiri shortwing, white-bellied shortwing, Nilgiri sholakili or rufous-bellied shortwing is a species of passerine bird in the family Muscicapidae endemic to the Shola forests of the higher hills of southern India, mainly north of the Palghat Gap. This small bird is found on the forest floor and undergrowth of dense forest patches sheltered in the valleys of montane grassland, a restricted and threatened habitat.

Goulds shortwing Species of bird

Gould's shortwing is a small species of passerine bird in the family Muscicapidae. It is found in the Himalayas, Yunnan and northern parts of Myanmar and Vietnam. It breeds in the eastern Himalayas in rocky areas above the tree-line and winters at lower altitude in wooded valleys.

Purple cochoa Species of bird

The purple cochoa is a brightly coloured bird found in the temperate forests of Asia. It is a quiet and elusive bird species that has been considered to be related to the thrushes of family Turdidae or the related Muscicapidae. They are found in dark forested areas and is found in the canopy, where it often sits motionless.

Green cochoa Species of bird

The green cochoa is a bird species that was variously placed with the thrushes of family Turdidae or the related Muscicapidae. It is considered closer to the former.

White-bellied blue robin Species of bird

The white-bellied blue robin or white-bellied sholakili, is a bird of the family Muscicapidae. It is endemic to the Shola forests of the higher hills of southern India. The Nilgiri blue robin and this species were once considered separate species, later lumped as sub-species of a single species (major) and elevated again to full species in 2005 by Pamela C. Rasmussen. The species was earlier thought to be related to the shortwings and placed in the genus Brachypteryx and later moved to Myiomela since species in the genus Brachypteryx shows marked sexual dimorphism. In 2017, a study found that this is a sister group of the flycatchers in the genera Niltava, Cyornis and Eumyias among others. It was then placed in newly erected genus Sholicola. This small bird is found on the forest floor and undergrowth of dense forest patches sheltered in the valleys of montane grassland, a restricted and threatened habitat.

<i>Larvivora</i> Genus of birds

Larvivora is a genus of small passerine birds belonging to the Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae that occur in central and eastern Asia.

Turdinae Subfamily of thrushes

Turdinae are a subfamily of passerine birds in the family Turdidae. They are the sister cladeto the subfamily Myadestinae The divergence between myadestines and turdines occurred 11 million years ago in the Serravallian. Within the turdines they can split into three subgroups: Zoothera occupying a basal position, the second consisting of forest thrush genera and the remaining group closer to Turdus.


  1. Escobar Riomalo, Maria Paula; Gongora, Esteban; Arsitizabal Leost, Sophie (2020-03-04). Schulenberg, Thomas S (ed.). "Great Thrush (Turdus fuscater)". Birds of the World. doi:10.2173/bow.grethr1.01. S2CID   216306066.
  2. 1 2 Perrins, C. (1991). Forshaw, Joseph (ed.). Encyclopaedia of Animals: Birds. London: Merehurst Press. pp. 186–187. ISBN   1-85391-186-0.
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