Coming back from Connemara last weekend, we stopped off in Cong, Co. Mayo. Late in the afternoon, we were walking out of the grounds of Ashford Castle, towards Cong. On the avenue between the Church of Ireland church and the Roman Catholic Church, was a tubby bird about the length of a blackbird pecking away on the ground.
We got closer, for a look. It wasn’t so much tame as completely unconcerned by us. It looked at us, cocked its head, and then going back to digging for worms. It made no attempt to fly, and we stayed with 1-2m of it for about 15 minutes before it wandered off into the undergrowth.
It had a pale breast, speckled with brown, a short, slightly hooked beak, and a brown head and back. Some of its wing feathers seemed to be tipped with gold, or yellow. Its head seemed to be stuffed into its body, as if its shoulders were hunch up,and it’s feathers seemed ‘fluffed out’.
We reckoned it was a juvenile thrush – but after comparing it to loads of images in books and online, we couldn’t figure out if it’s a song thrush, a mistle thrush, or something else.
So, I contacted the RTE radio programme Mooney Goes Wild, and Birdwatch Ireland. Derek Mooney referred my email over to Birdwatch Ireland’s Niall Hatch, who sent me this email this morning:
“Thank you for your e-mail, which Derek Mooney passed on to us here in BirdWatch Ireland.
The bird in your photographs is indeed a young thrush: specifically, a Song Thrush that has only just left the nest. It would just be starting to find food for itself, but its parents would most likely still be looking after it. It would just be beginning to fly, but would not be very good at it yet, hence its reluctance to fly away from you. You can see in the photos that the flight feathers have not yet fully grown, and the pale tips that you mentioned are characteristic of new feathers that are still growing; these tips will soon wear off, giving the wings and back a more uniform appearance. The bird is also too young yet to have developed the healthy fear of humans that most birds have, and wouldn’t really have been sure of how to react to you.”
Read on for more photos…