Worcestershire Record No. 28. April 2010
Between 5th and14th January 2010 there was continuous snow cover over South Worcestershire, and during this period a Fieldfare, Turdus pilaris, defended a small ornamental apple tree (Malus “Red sentinel”) in my Pershore garden, which it had adopted as a source of food. The tree held several hundred fruits, which are bright red, each about 1.5cm in diameter, and unpalatable to birds until late winter. The resident bird visited the tree to eat a fruit several times an hour throughout each day, maintaining a watch from nearby trees between visits and relentlessly driving off any other thrush species which approached the food source, especially Fieldfares.
At 13.30 hours on 14th January a Fieldfare flew in to the tree and was immediately attacked by the resident bird. Both birds, locked in combat,dropped to the ground beneath the tree, where the resident pecked violently at the visitor for about a minute before both moved out of sight into an area of a low evergreen Epimedium shrub nearby. The resident bird came out alone and for the next hour was observed through 8x40 binoculars at a distance of 7metres, during which time it stood on top of the Epimedium and vigorously pecked at the intruder below, using its wings to assist it’s efforts. On a number of occasions, when the bird lifted it’s head, grey feathers were caught in it's bill as it savaged the victim, the activity resembling that of a bird of prey with a kill. A few visits were made to eat fruits in the tree above, during the hour that the attacks continued, after which time the interest in the by now dead intruder was lost.
I examined the corpse, which was emaciated and very light in weight. The crown was red with blood, but there was no evidence that the bird had been eaten. While there are references in BWP (Cramp 1988) to Fieldfares defending territories, actual killing would seem extraordinary, perhaps occurring in this instance because the victim was too weak to fly off or defend itself.
CRAMP S (ed) 1988. The Birds of the Western Palearctic, Volume 5.