throstle



throstle defined in 1930 year

throstle - Throstle;
throstle - Upper parts olive-brown, throat white in the middle; sides of neck and under parts ochreous yellow spotted with dark brown; under wing-coverts pale orange-yellow. Length, nine inches.

The protest and recommendation implied by the use of the first name at the head of this article may be futile; but it is impossible not to feel and to express regret that so good and distinctive and old a name for this familiar bird should have been replaced by a name which is none of these things. Song-thrush is an unsuitable name, for the very good reason that we have several thrushes, all of them songsters. By most persons the bird is simply called 'thrush,' which is neither better nor worse than 'song-thrush.'

The throstle is one of the smaller members of the genus, being about a third less in size than the noble stormcock. In form, colouring, motions, language, and habits, he is a very thrush. It cannot be said that his music is the best - that, for instance, it is finer than that of the blackbird. The two songs differ in character; both are good of their kind, neither perfect. The throstle is, nevertheless, in the very first rank of British melodists, and it is often said of him that he comes next to the nightingale. The same thing has been said of other species, tastes differing in this as in other matters. It is worth remarking that most persons would agree in regarding the nightingale, song-thrush, blackbird, blackcap, and skylark, as our five finest songsters, and that these all differ so widely from each other in the character of their strains that no comparison between them is possible, and there is no rivalry.

The only species which may be called the rival of the song- thrush is the missel-thrush, as their music has a strong resemblance. That of the stormcock has a wonderful charm in the early days of the year, when it is a jubilant cry, a herald's song and prophecy, sounding amidst wintry gloom and tempest. Heard in calm and genial weather in spring, the throstle is by far the finer songster. His chief merit is his infinite variety. His loudest notes may be heard half a mile away on a still morning; his lowest sounds are scarcely audible at a distance of twenty yards. His purest sounds, which are very pure and bright, are contrasted with various squealing and squeaking noises that seem not to come from the same bird. Listening to him, you never know what to expect, for his notes are delivered in no settled order, as in some species. He has many notes and phrases, but has never made of them one completed melody. They are snatches and portions of a melody, and he sings in a scrappy way - a note or two, a phrase or two, then a pause, as if the singer paused to try and think of something to follow; but when it comes it has no connection with what has gone before. His treasures are many, but they exist jumbled together, and he takes them as they come. As a rule, when he has produced a beautiful note, he will repeat it twice or thrice; on this account Browning has called him a ' wise bird,' because he can recapture The first fine careless rapture.

There is not in this song the faintest trace of plaintiveness, and of that heart-touching quality of tenderness which gives so great a charm to some of the warblers. It is pre-eminently cheerful; a song of summer and love and happiness of so contagious a spirit that to listen to it critically, as one would listen to the polished phrases of the nightingale, would be impossible.

The throstle is a very persistent singer: in spring and summer his loud carols may be heard from a tree-top at four o'clock or half- past three in the morning; throughout the day he sings at intervals, and again, more continuously, in the evening, when he keeps up an intermittent flow of melody until dark. His evening music always seems his best, but the effect is probably due to the comparative silence and the witching aspect of nature at that hour, when the sky is still luminous, and the earth beneath the dusky green foliage lies in deepest shadow.

So far only the music of the throstle has been considered; but in the case of this bird the music is nearly everything. When we think of the throstle, we have the small sober-coloured figure that skulks in the evergreens, and its life-habits, less in our minds than the overmastering musical sounds with which he fills the green places of the earth from early spring until the great silence of July and August falls on nature.

The song-thrush is a common species in suitable localities' throughout the British Islands, being rarest in the north of Scotland. He is found in this country all the year round, but it was discovered many years ago, by Professor Newton, that a very limited number of birds remain to winter with us. Probably they migrate by night, as the fieldfare and redwing are known to do, and, being much less gregarious than those birds, come and go without exciting attention. The fact remains that, where they are abundant in summer, a time comes in autumn when they mysteriously vanish. One or two individuals may remain where twenty or thirty existed previously; and if they only shifted their quarters, as the missel-thrushes do in some parts of the country, they would be found in considerable numbers during the winter in some districts. But the disappearance is general. I am inclined to think that this thrush migration is not so general as Professor Newton believes, and that the birds that leave our shores are mainly those that breed in the northern parts of the country. During the exceptionally severe winter of 1894-5 the thrushes that remained with us suffered more than most species, and in the following spring I found that the song-thrush had become rare throughout the southern half of England.

Nesting begins in March, the site selected being the centre of a hedge, or a thick holly or other evergreen bush, or a mass of ivy against a wall or tree. The nest is built of dry grass, small twigs, and moss, and plastered inside with mud, or clay, or cow-dung, and lined with rotten wood. This is a strange material for a nest to be lined with, and is not used by any other bird; the fragments of rotten wood are wetted when used, and, being pressed smoothly down, form a cork-like lining, very hard when dry. Four or five eggs are laid, pale greenish blue in ground-colour, thickly marked with small deep brown spots, almost black. Two, and sometimes three, broods are reared in the season.

During the day, when not singing, the thrush is a silent lird; In the evening he becomes noisy, and chirps and chatters and screams excitedly before settling to roost.

Insects of all kinds, earthworms, and slugs and snails, are eaten by the song-thrush. The snail-shells are broken by being struck vigorously against a stone; and as the same stone is often used for the purpose, quantities of newly broken shells are sometimes found scattered round it. He is a great hunter after earthworms, and it would appear from his actions that the sense of hearing rather than that of sight is relied on to discover the worm. For the worm, however near the surface, is still under it, and usually a close bed of grass covers the ground; yet you will see a thrush hopping about a lawn stand motionless for two or three seconds, then hop rapidly to a spot half a yard away, and instantly plunge his beak into the earth and draw out a worm. The supposition is that he has heard it moving in the earth. He is also a fruit and berry eater, both wild and cultivated.

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near throstle in Knolik


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