Fieldfare: the bird profiles


I am particularly interested in garden wildlife which is why I did my Master's degree with a focus on "animal ecology". I am convinced that beneficial insects and wildlife are a sustainable and effective alternative to many of the products we use on our plants. I am also a passionate birdwatcher and rarely go for a walk without my binoculars.

Favourite fruit: kiwi, apple and redcurrant
Favourite vegetables: tomatoes and green beans

Know the difference between a female fieldfare and a male? Could you identify a fieldfare’s song? Here’s everything you should know about the fieldfare.

A fieldfare sits on a winter branch
The fieldfare visits the UK in winter

The fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) visits our islands en masse every winter to gorge on the fruits and berries. Some fieldfares are known to visit the same orchard every year, while others don’t even visit the same country! It should come as no surprise that one of the best places you can look out for a fieldfare is in a field. Read on to find out more about this wonderful, winter visitor.

Fieldfare: key facts

SizeAbout 25cm
WeightAround 120g
Breeding seasonMarch-June
LifespanApproximately 10 years
HabitatFarms, sparse forests, large parks and gardens
Food preferencesEarthworms, snails, berries and other fruits
ThreatsDecline in natural habitat and food supply

How to recognise the fieldfare

The fieldfare is similar in size and shape to its more famous relative, the blackbird. Both species share a yellow beak, but here the similarities end. Next to a blackbird, the fieldfare is a blaze of colour. With a light stripe above the eye, the fieldfare’s grey-blue head, neck and rump merge to a red-brown back, which match its red-brown wings. Its tail feathers are dark, its breast rust-yellow, and its underside is streaked with black spots. Unfortunately, it is difficult to distinguish a male fieldfare from a female. 

A fieldfare perches on a fence
The fieldfare has strikingly patterned plumage [Photo: Simun Ascic/]

How to recognise a young fieldfare

Young fieldfares look just like their parents; all the important features are there, only less pronounced. Look out for the young bird’s white-spotted wings, they’ll soon be gone. Following their first winter, young fieldfares shed their juvenile feathers and display full, adult plumage by spring.

A fieldfare chick perches on a branch
A young fieldfare is easy to identify [Photo: Roman Kybus/]

How to recognise a fieldfare egg

A fieldfare’s eggs, which are about 3 centimetres long, blue-green and speckled red-brown, resemble a blackbird’s eggs. The female lays between 5 and 7 in a cup-shaped nest made of plant stems and leaves, lined with wet soil and padded with fine blades of grass.

Five fieldfare eggs in a nest
Fieldfare eggs look similar to blackbird eggs [Photo: Vishnevskiy Vasily/]

What is the perfect habitat for fieldfares?

Fieldfares like sparse woodland, the edges of forests and any trees it finds in large fields. However, it is possible to spot a fieldfare in a city park or large garden. Since the thrushes look for food on the ground, low vegetation and free, moist soil are vital for a breeding site.

Where do fieldfares build their nests?

Though fieldfares forage on the ground, their nests are built at a safer height in tall shrubs or tree forks. Breeding partners occasionally go it alone, but predominantly fieldfares group in colonies of up to 50 pairs. Living in such a large flock provides protection against predators such as cats, corvids and birds of prey, who are loudly and regularly attacked with “excrement bombs” – which are exactly as described!

When is breeding season for fieldfares?

A female fieldfare lays her eggs between March and April and incubates them for 10 to 13 days. She takes care of her hatchlings for the first few days, but eventually both parents share feeding duties. After another 14 to 16 days, the young birds leave the nest and attempt to fly. They are supported outside the nest by their parents for a further two weeks before having to fend for themselves. It is not uncommon for a second brood to follow the successful rearing of the first. 

Fieldfare hatchlings beg their parent for food
Fieldfare hatchlings are always hungry [Photo: Dark_Side/]

Where do fieldfares spend winter?

Most fieldfares only visit the UK to escape harsher climates in their home countries over winter. Quite sociable, the thrushes tend to group into colourful flocks together with starlings and redwings. Together, the birds search for food in fields and gardens.

What does a fieldfare’s song sound like?

The song of the fieldfare has nothing on the blackbird, it is an unstructured mass of chattering. Its call, however, is much easier to identify: listen for a warning “cheep-cheep-cheep”.

A fieldfare stands on a branch
A fieldfare’s call is easy to recognise, unlike its song

Help the fieldfare!

Whether you are looking to turn your garden into a fieldfare paradise, or simply help the thrush survive over winter, read on for helpful tips and tricks.

What do fieldfares eat?

A fieldfare’s diet changes seasonally. In summer, they feed mainly on earthworms and other small, ground-dwelling animals such as snails. And in the colder months, they switch to fallen fruit and berries. To support the fieldfare, stick to this plan. The fieldfare will readily gather any fruit you provide for it on the ground.

A fieldfare holds a berry in its beak
In late spring, fieldfares like to eat berries and other fruits

Which birdhouses are suitable for fieldfares?

Fieldfares build open-topped nests, so an enclosed birdhouse will not do. Traditional bird boxes should be reserved for birds like the blue tit or starling. For fieldfares, reach for birdhouses that have a large, open entrance, as opposed to a small hole.

How can I support fieldfares even more?

However, birdhouses are not the fieldfare’s first choice, so it is best to focus on supporting their natural nesting sites. Tall hedges and dense trees are a must. And if these are out of the question, try to concentrate on providing a sufficient food supply. As well as winter feed, fieldfare’s will appreciate areas of low vegetation, where they can forage in the warmer months.

If you would like to know more about garden birds, have a read of our other profiles, including the chiffchaff.

Subscribe to the Plantura newsletter