Mistle thrushes (Turdus viscivorus) are large thrushes which live in open country, often seen singing on mild winter days from the tops of very tall trees; listen out for its call – whilst it is in flight, it sounds like a football rattle! This loud and far reaching call is often heard during stormy weather, hence its alternative name of Stormcock.
It once had a now long vanished country name – ‘January Joy’ and it certainly does seem to be indifferent to inclement January weather, often being in full voice at this early time of year before many other birds have started to sing. Its melodious and fluty song is not dissimilar to that of the Blackbird.
Its English name refers to its mistletoe eating, as does the scientific name, which is derived from the Latin words Turdus, ‘thrush’, and viscivorus meaning ‘mistletoe eater’. However it does not only eat mistletoe berries, it noisily defends any berries it finds from all other birds.
It has a beneficial association with mistletoe, as after feeding the thrush will wipe its beak on a branch to clean it of the stickiness of the berries which transfers the seeds to a new spot allowing it to grow a new plant.
Mistletoe thrived in the apple orchards of Kent but sadly with the decline of this habitat it is becoming more difficult to find.
Any of the winter guided walks on the High Weald events calendar may give you the opportunity to hear Mistle thrushes.