Ring ouzel - (c) Andy Jones
Ring ouzel are the mountain equivalent of the blackbird. Measuring 24 cm in length they are easily distinguished from their lowland cousins by their “bibs” of white or cream. As with blackbirds, the male and female birds have slightly different plumage.The male is all black besides a white bib on the breast, whereas females and juveniles are chocolate brown with a cream bib.
A summer migrant, ring ouzel arrive in the UK from mid-March and take up breeding territories at mountain sites in England and Scotland. The breeding season usually runs from April to July during which they are generally seen alone or in pairs in rocky gullies.
Females generally lay clutches of between 3 and 5 eggs, which are incubated over 13 days. Whilst in the nest juveniles are fed on a diet of invertebrates, commonly earthworms and cranefly larvae. Once fully fledged, birds quickly switch to a diet of berries, with bilberry, crowberry and rowan commonly consumed.
Why we’re interested
Ring ouzel are currently red listed, a species of conservation concern due to a rapid reduction in the breeding population. The UK population has been seen to decline in the three years leading up to 2012, from an estimated 7,549 pairs to 5,332, and its range has contracted by 27%. In Scotland, the fall in territory uptake by breeding ring ouzel has been linked to increased grazing pasture and decreases in areas of heather and smooth grasses. At the same time, survival of fledgling ring ouzel has been found to be closely linked to population growth.
In the Peak District the population of ring ouzel is limited to a few small areas. It is hoped that by gathering data on their habitats and distribution we can discover more about this true moorland specialist.