1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Fieldfare

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FIELDFARE (O.E. fealo-for = fallow-farer), a large species of thrush, the Turdus pilaris of Linnaeus — well known as a regular and common autumnal visitor throughout the British Islands and a great part of Europe, besides western Asia, and even reaching northern Africa. It is the Veldjakker and Veld-lyster of the Dutch, the Wachholderdrossel and Kramtsvogel of Germans, the Litorne of the French, and the Cesena of Italians. This bird is of all thrushes the most gregarious in habit, not only migrating in large bands and keeping in flocks during the winter, but even commonly breeding in society — 200 nests or more having been seen within a very small space. The birch-forests of Norway, Sweden and Russia are its chief resorts in summer, but it is known also to breed sparingly in some districts of Germany. Though its nest has been many times reported to have been found in Scotland, there is perhaps no record of such an incident that is not open to doubt; and unquestionably the missel-thrush (T. viscivorus) has been often mistaken for the fieldfare by indifferent observers. The head, neck, upper part of the back and the rump are grey; the wings, wing-coverts and middle of the back are rich hazel-brown; the throat is ochraceous; and the breast reddish-brown — both being streaked or spotted with black, while the belly and lower wing-coverts are white, and the legs and toes very dark-brown. The nest and eggs resemble those of the blackbird (T. merula), but the former is usually built high up in a tree. The fieldfare's call-note is harsh and loud, sounding like t'chat-t'chat: its song is low, twittering and poor. It usually arrives in Britain about the middle or end of October, but sometimes earlier, and often remains till the middle of May before departing for its northern breeding-places. In hard weather it throngs to the berry-bearing bushes which then afford it sustenance, but in open winters the flocks spread over the fields in search of animal food — worms, slugs and the larvae of insects. In very severe seasons it. will altogether leave the country, and then return for a shorter or longer time as spring approaches. From William of Palerne (translated from the French c. 1350) to the writers of our own day the fieldfare has occasionally been noticed by British poets with varying propriety. Thus Chaucer's association of its name with frost is as happy as true, while Scott was more than unlucky in his well-known reference to its “lowly nest” in the Highlands.

Structurally very like the fieldfare, but differing greatly in many other respects, is the bird known in North America as the “robin” — its ruddy breast and familiar habits reminding the early British settlers in the New World of the household favourite of their former homes. This bird, the Turdus migratorius of Linnaeus, has a wide geographical range, extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from Greenland to Guatemala, and, except at its extreme limits, is almost everywhere a very abundant species. As its scientific name imports, it is essentially a migrant, and gathers in flocks to pass the winter in the south, though a few remain in New England throughout the year. Yet its social instincts point rather in the direction of man than of its own kind, and it is not known to breed in companies, while it affects the homesteads, villages and even the parks and gardens of the large cities, where its fine song, its attractive plumage, and its great services as a destroyer of noxious insects, combine to make it justly popular. (A. N.)