I must be an old romantic at heart as I am always intrigued to know if the birds I watch stay together forever and remain monogamous. I know that swifts and swallows do, and would love to think that all species follow suit.
This thought led me to investigate if thrushes mate for life.
Sadly, it would seem that the thrush finds a new mate with each breeding season. However, I am happy to report that for the time they are together, they remain true to each other.
How thrushes choose a mate
Male thrushes usually arrive at potential breeding grounds first, with females following a few days later. The loud song of the male perched high in a tree attracts possible mates.
A courtship ritual takes place where the female takes off in flight and the male follows. This happens around 6 times with the couple resting between flights, perching and feeding together.
This signifies that she is happy with him and his choice of breeding ground and she will begin to build their nest, in the exact spot of her choice.
They lay 3-5 eggs and the female alone incubates them. The male steps up to the plate as soon as the young hatch, taking over main feeding duties, although the female assists.
This pattern continues after the babies fledge, the parents fuss around them for a further 3-4 weeks until they are sure that they can fly and forage food for themselves.
How many broods do thrushes have
At this point, the birds usually copulate again and repeat the whole process. If the summer is mild and food is plentiful, they may attempt a third brood. This results in a long breeding season that lasts from early March through to August, during which the couple remain monogamous.
It is at this point that the territory breaks down and the birds go their separate ways.
Many thrushes migrate, some males remain in the same territory, or in a similar region. Few females that don’t migrate hold their territory until the spring.
How many mates thrushes have
When the weather conditions begin to improve, the cycle starts again, but with a new mate. They won’t use any existing nests but might utilise some of the salvageable materials to build their new nest.
This pattern continues for the span of a thrushes life, beginning at a year old when they reach maturity. The average life expectancy of the thrush is just 3 years, so they might have as few as 2 mates throughout their life.
However, a thrush has been known to live past 10 years, so possibly had multiple mates and raised dozens of young.
Do thrushes mate for life? No, however, monogamy is important to thrushes and they stay loyal to their mate.
They are conscientious parents before separating on good terms.
Those that don’t migrate, stay safe until it is time for the next pair formation.