Russell is missing: Searching for ‘Russell’: The blackbird’s long-lost mountain cousin

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


There can barely be a reader among us who is unfamiliar with the blackbird (Turdus merula), but how many of us know of the blackbird’s mountain cousin, a hardy and elusive bird who replaces the blackbird as the last trees and edgerows peter out, giving way to the open expanse of moor, hill and mountain? So, who is this mountain cousin of the blackbird and why are we so unfamiliar with this remarkable member of the thrush family? Well, part of the reason is that, unlike the blackbird, they live far from human habitation and are only likely to be seen in the more mountainous parts of the British Isles. As such, they are specialists
who have evolved to cope with a unique ecological niche; indeed, they are supremely well adapted to the mountain environment. But even those of us who are at home in the mountains are largely unfamiliar with this secretive thrush.
It does not help that non-birders might mistake them for a blackbird or a corvid.
Encounters are fleeting and there is often little but an impression to go on – an awareness that the flight feathers have a little frosting to their edges, and that the fluting song and stony chacking sound emitted as they fly is most
un-blackbird like – an awareness that might only be accessible to those with suff cient bird sense, perhaps. Nor does it help that they have suffered a population collapse, with the number of breeding pairs falling by between 44 per cent and 100 per cent in 13 study areas (1979 to 2009), and a reduction in the size of
their range of 43 per cent in the past 40 years. We can, therefore, perhaps
be forgiven for not knowing the ring ouzel (Turdus torquatus).
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages3
Specialist publicationVeterinary Times
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sep 2022


  • Ring Ouzel
  • Thrush
  • Mountain Birds
  • Conservation
  • Morocco
  • Juniper


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