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Differences between thrushes, pipits and larks (1 Viewer)

curlewsandpiper1980

Well-known member
These 3 species are easy to distinguish if singing and in their own usual habitat: a song thrush singing from the top of a tree (that unmistakable song), a skylark singing from an open meadow (another unmistakable song), and a flock of meadow pipits flying up and down in the uplands (usually there aren't many birds up in the mountains, so pipits are easy to ID there).

However I just happened to have two encounters with pipit and thrush-like birds, where I got confused by their identity.

1) First, this morning I watched from my kitchen window a pipit-like bird happily standing on a small bush and seemingly picking berries. It was the size of a starling.

It could have been a meadow or even a tree pipit (I am not bothering about the differences between those two yet). But it might have been a song thrush too, as they occur here too. To complicate thing, skylarks can look like a pipit too (if their crest is not showing up), though I do not think it was a skylark, as the area outside of my kitchen has quite a few trees and skylarks are only found father afield.

Any comments on this one? I didn't manage to take a photo.

2) And yesterday I saw a pair of large birds on top of a tree that I thought initially were mistle thrushes (song thrushes are smaller). They had a speckled belly, dark spots on a creamy yellow belly and a darker back. The tail was dark but with white edges. But then, I remembered that kestrels and merlins can also have a spotted belly, and if I didn't see their bill, so I might mistake a thrush for a merlin. That pair of birds was the size of a dove, and they were also silent on top of the tree.

By the way, I also found smaller falcons like merlin and kestrel hard to identify, as they can also be confused in flight for a pigeon, if a bit away. Unless they are hunting, which then their flight becomes obvious.

Sorry for these easy questions, as I am just a beginner in birding, and getting to grips with these common species.
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
Larks and Pipits will sit on trees and bushes but a bird picking berries will be a Thrush, Larks and Pipits are totally insectivorous AFAIK.

Larks and Pipits are also not urban birds so unless you live in the countryside, it's unlikely that you will see either, in your garden, again, likely a Thrush and I assume you realise that Blackbirds are Thrushes?
 
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THE_FERN

Well-known member
Larks and Pipits are also not urban birds so unless you live in the countryside, it's unlikely that you will see either

This is good advice but I thought it worth adding you might find either, especially meadow pipit, early in the morning in urban parks. They favour areas with extensive open grass. You can find pipits in central London parks in this way for example
 

Richard Prior

Halfway up an Alp
Europe
Tricky ones, but from your description for No 2 I think the two birds on top of the tree probably were Mistle Thrush, the white down the outside of the tail is a useful id. point. For No 1 the bird eating berries, have you checked illustrations of juvenile Starling, they can look quite pale unlike the adults.
 

curlewsandpiper1980

Well-known member
Thanks for your comments.
This gives strength to my guess that bird 1 feeding on berries next to my window was a song thrush (as a pipit wouldn't do that), and bird 2 pair standing on top of trees were mistle thrushes.

I do live in the countryside, I have pine woods just next to my house and I also have open fields and duneland a couple minutes away, where we can find skylarks, as well as yellowhammers, sand martins and terns. I haven't seen that many pipits around, unless I drive a bit inland, where the moor starts (but there are some in those open fields).

Blackbirds: probably the easiest bird to identify of all :)
Starlings: usually nest in our roof, so we are familiar with them, including the juveniles.
 

curlewsandpiper1980

Well-known member
Anything else that is unique to the song thrush, that helps to distinguish it from a pipit?
I know the distinctive way of flying from meadow pipits, so that helps identify the pipits.

How about how to distinguish a pipit from a skylark, when they are silent? Do skylarks fly differently than pipits?

I have only seen pipits and skylarks on a few occasions as I am just beginning birding.
Thanks,
 

fdokykcu

Well-known member
Have you tried these series of videos of the BTO?

http://www.bto.org/develop-your-skills/bird-identification/videos

They offer a lot of information about what you are asking in your posts. For example, you can find the answer to your Song Thrush question in this one:

http://www.bto.org/develop-your-skills/bird-identification/videos/bto-bird-id-nightingale-and-other-night-singers

By the way, can any native speaker tell me which accent the lady has? I'm just curious, as a foreigner I had trouble to recognize many words I knew. Have to listen several times some of them

Anything else that is unique to the song thrush, that helps to distinguish it from a pipit?
 
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Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
Have you tried these series of videos of the BTO?

http://https://www.bto.org/develop-your-skills/bird-identification/videos

They offer a lot of information about what you are asking in your posts. Tor example, check either the one on Song/Mistle Thrush or the night singers ID one for your Song Thrush question

By the way, can any native speaker tell me which accent the lady has? I'm just curious, as a foreigner I had trouble to recognize many words I knew. Have to listen several times some of them

A lady called Sue Gough is credited on many of them (including the Thrush ones). I’m not sure of where she is from but there are no words used that wouldn’t be nationally recognised. Some of the ID videos (including the Night Singers) now have subtitles which are a transcript of the voiceover so if you activate them on your device when you watch the videos it may be easier for those who don’t have English as a first language.

All the videos can be found doing a ‘BTO Youtube’ search.
 

fdokykcu

Well-known member
Thanks! I discovered the subtitles option a couple of months ago. It was no a question of vocabulary, I guess my listening needs some polishing ;-)

A lady called Sue Gough is credited on many of them (including the Thrush ones). I’m not sure of where she is from but there are no words used that wouldn’t be nationally recognised. Some of the ID videos (including the Night Singers) now have subtitles which are a transcript of the voiceover so if you activate them on your device when you watch the videos it may be easier for those who don’t have English as a first language.

All the videos can be found doing a ‘BTO Youtube’ search.
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
Have you tried these series of videos of the BTO?

http://www.bto.org/develop-your-skills/bird-identification/videos

They offer a lot of information about what you are asking in your posts. For example, you can find the answer to your Song Thrush question in this one:

http://www.bto.org/develop-your-skills/bird-identification/videos/bto-bird-id-nightingale-and-other-night-singers

By the way, can any native speaker tell me which accent the lady has? I'm just curious, as a foreigner I had trouble to recognize many words I knew. Have to listen several times some of them

The Lady has a middle class English accent with no real, regional accent.
 

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