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The Ring Ouzel is a mountain-dwelling bird species commonly found on slopes between 1300 and 2500 meters in elevation. It shares similar behavior with our Common Blackbird but has a less melodious song.

Meet the Ring Ouzel

“Alpine Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus), Karwendel mountains, Austria” (cropped) by Frank.Vassen is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The adult male of the nominate race of the Ring Ouzel T.t. torquatus has black plumage overall, except for a conspicuous white crescent-shaped band on its breast. The mantle, scapulars, belly, and flanks display a fine grey scaled effect due to narrow whitish fringes. The underwing is pale greyish-white, while the flight feathers and wing coverts on the upperwing have pale greyish-white edges. It has a yellow bill, dark brown eyes, and grey-brown legs and feet.

Photo courtesy of Paco Gómez/CC BY-SA 2.0

The female closely resembles the male but has browner plumage on the head, scapulars, and throat. The breast band in the female is narrower and less contrasting than in the male.

The juvenile Ring Ouzel resembles the female but has grey-buff-streaked upper parts. It may lack or have a very faint breast band, and its chin is whitish. The subspecies T.t. alpestris shows broader white fringes below, creating a heavier-scaled effect.

“Merle à plastron Turdus torquatus waaDSC_7962 (18)” by Pierre-Marie Epiney is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The Ring Ouzel breeds in Western and Central Europe and the Caucasus area. During the winter, it migrates southwards to Southern Europe, North Africa, Southern Turkey, and Central and Southern Iran.

Photo courtesy of Paco Gómez – https://www.flickr.com/photos/saganta/24871078516/CC BY-SA 2.0

In Britain, the Ring Ouzel breeds in mixed heather and grasslands where boulders, gullies, and small crags are present. It can also be found in flat areas with low vegetation, trees, and bushes. The species occurs at sea level up to 1200 meters in Europe, 600-2000 meters in Central Europe, between 1300 and 3000 meters in Turkey, and 1200-2700 meters in North Africa during winter.

Photo courtesy of Medenica Ivan/CC BY-SA 4.0

The song of the Ring Ouzel consists of varied phrases, including 2-4 fluty melancholy notes such as “pi-rii, pi-rii, pi-rii, pi-rii” and “trruu-trruu-trruu-tjii-tjii-tjii.”

“File:2015-04-20 Turdus torquatus torquatus Cairngorm 1.jpg” by MPF is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

The Ring Ouzel sustains itself on a diet primarily consisting of invertebrates, including adults, larvae, and caterpillars of various species such as bugs, flies, moths, beetles, and millipedes. It also consumes spiders, snails, slugs, and earthworms. On occasion, it may capture small lizards and salamanders. After the breeding season, the Ring Ouzel incorporates numerous berries, fruits, and seeds into its diet. It primarily forages on the ground.

“File:Drozd kolohrivý (Turdus torquatus) a (4834220566).jpg” by Andrej Chudý from Slovakia is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The breeding season of the Ring Ouzel varies across its range. It is a solitary nester, although several territories can be established along streams with nests spaced approximately 160-200 meters apart. The nests are found in various locations such as the ground, ledges, crevices, earth banks, shrubs, or small trees (typically 3-4 meters above the ground). Constructed by the female, the nest is a bulky cup made of dry grass, stems, moss, and leaves mixed with mud and lined with softer grasses.

“Merle à plastron Turdus torquatus juvénile aDSC_1284” (cropped) by Pierre-Marie Epiney is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

During the breeding season, the female Ring Ouzel lays 4-5 pale blue or greenish-blue eggs with fine brownish markings. Incubation primarily takes place over 13-14 days by the female, although the male may briefly sit on the nest as well. The young birds fledge 14-16 days after hatching and continue to depend on their parents for at least 12 days, sometimes longer. They gain the ability to fly at around 18 days. This species can produce two broods per season, mainly in the southern parts of its breeding range.

Photo courtesy of Scops/Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

The Ring Ouzel is locally common, but it faces several threats to its population. Human disturbances and climatic changes have resulted in the scarcity of some of its prey items. Additionally, habitat degradation due to deforestation in the wintering areas of southern Spain and northwest Africa, as well as hunting of northwest European migrants, poses significant challenges. However, the species is not currently globally threatened.

“Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus)” by sussexbirder is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Listen to this bird below:

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