Thursday, March 12, 2015


The Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) is a nomadic thrush breeding in temperate and boreal forests from Iceland to e. Russia. There is also a small, fluctuating population breeding in sw. Greenland since the late 1970s. Fieldfares are also regular winter visitors to Iceland from Europe. Birds that arrive to our region are thought to originate from northern Europe, Iceland or Greenland. Cold weather winter movements of this nomad align well with Atlantic Canada sightings that are mostly in late DecFeb. (Howell et al., 2014)

Nova Scotia previously had 3 reports in Oct, one each in Dec, Jan and Feb and one late bird that was found in Apr. Our latest bird was discovered by Kathleen Spicer in an apple tree in her yard in Apple River, Cumberland on 31 Jan 2015, representing Nova Scotia's 8th report. (McLaren, 2012)

Figure 1. Fieldfare in Apple River, Cumberland - 27 Feb 2014. Photo by Alix d'Entremont.

This rare North American visitor scores a Code 4 (Casual) on the ABA Checklist equating to less than annual occurrence in North America. I made the 1000 km trip from Pubnico to Apple River to see the Fieldfare (Fig. 1) at the end of Feb, and was about the 100th birder to so at the time. Listers flew in from as far as the southern US to see this vagrant bird. We are all very grateful for the kindness of both Kathleen and her husband Blaine for being so accommodating to the many birders visiting their private home.

Howell et al. (2014) describe first year Fieldfares as typically duller than adults with whitish tips to retained juvenal greater coverts. The Apple River bird appears fairly vibrant but early photos do show what looks like moult contrast in the greater coverts indicating that it is likely a first-winter bird.

This European visitor (Turdus pilaris) is closely related to our American Robin (Turdus migratorius), both are members of the genus Turdus. They are structurally similar (Fig. 2), but the Fieldfare is slightly larger.

Figure 2. American Robin (L) vs. Fieldfare (R)Photos by Alix d'Entremont.

Howell, S.N.G.,  I. Lewington & W. Russell. 2014. Rare Birds of North America. Princeton University Press

McLaren, I.A. 2012. All the Birds of Nova Scotia: status & critical identification. Gaspereau Press Ltd, Kentville, N.S., Canada


  1. Very nice photos Alix. Yes I'm sure we all agree about what great hosts Kathleen and Blaine are.. Maybe it could have been closer for some of us but it sure picked a great yard for the birders wanting to see it.

  2. Thank you so much for this blog, Alix. Grateful to have it. Also appreciate the daily updates from Kathleen.