MISTLE THRUSH (Turdus viscivorus)
Despite the similarity in appearance and name to the Song Thrush, the song of the Mistle Thrush is quite different and perhaps more similar to that of a Blackbird. The song is delivered in short bursts, with only a small pause between phrases. Although some phrases may be repeated within a particular song sequence the repetition is not like that of the Song Thrush. It is delivered in a loud clear manner, the notes with less pattern than a Blackbird or Song Thrush. To my ears it has a strange quality that I have seen described as plaintive, many of the phrases seem to end in an up-note so the whole has a rather enquiring nature to it:
It is one of the earliest singers of the season, starting in late winter and is not deterred by the winter winds, still singing usually from an exposed perch which gave rise to a colloquial name in English of "stormcock". But despite this apparent display of strength I also find it quite nervous and difficult to approach, it usually quickly dives down to a lower level in the forest if you are clearly visible and it feels you are paying it too much attention.
It is a generally quarrelsome bird. In winter it defends trees which may contain fruit, or as its name implies Mistletoe berries (which are common in our area), against other species, chasing them off with aggressive alarm calls. These same alarm calls may be used on predators of any sort and it can often be heard chasing around the forest sounding off its annoyance in a highly audible manner. The call used is a loud rattling churring sound, very harsh. This is probably the sound that gives rise to the French name "draine" or the German "schnarre", and it is heard very frequently when the bird is disturbed in any way. Here are a couple of birds who seem to have been irritated by a buzzard whom they eventually drive away, you can hear the higher pitched call of the buzzard at intervals in this cut:
It is found throughout Switzerland but is more common in the wooded slopes of the Jura and the Alps from about 900m up to the tree line. As the ground softens during early spring many can be seen feeding on the ground in pastures as they switch from the winter feed of fruit to protein rich beetles and earthworms to build up reserves for the breeding season.