Length: 23 – 24 cm
Wingspan: 38 – 42 cm
Weight: 95 – 130 g
Adult male ring ouzels have black plumage with a white crescent-shaped band across the top of the breast. Their mantle, scapulars, belly and flanks have white fringes which give a fine grey scaled effect. Their underwings are pale grey and the flight feathers and wing coverts of the upperwing have pale grey edges.
Ring ouzels have yellow bills, dark brown eyes, and dull brown legs and feet.
Female ring ouzels are similar to males except the plumage on the head and scapulars is brown and the breast band is narrower and less conspicuous.
Juvenile ring ouzels resemble the female but with buff streaked upper parts. The breast band is either absent or very faint and they have a pale chin.
Ring ouzels begin breeding in mid-April and they can produce 2 broods a year. They are solitary nesters with nests although several territories can be established near streams spaced 160-200 m apart. The nest is built by the female alone on the ground or in shrubs or small trees 3-4 m above the ground. It is a bulky cup made from dry grass, stems, moss and leaves mixed with mud and lined with soft grass.
Ring ouzels lay 4-5 pale blue or greenish-blue eggs with brown markings which are incubated for 13-14 days mainly by the female although the male may sit on the nest for short periods.
Chicks fledge 14-16 days after hatching and depend on their parents for a further 12 days. They can fly at 18 days.
Ring ouzels eat invertebrates including caterpillars, flies, beetles, millipedes, spiders, slugs, snails, and worms. Where available they will also take small lizards and salamanders. After breeding season they eat seeds and berries.
Where to see them
Ring ouzels arrive in the UK in March to breed and leave again in September. They can be found in upland areas of Scotland, northern England, north west Wales, and Dartmoor. Look out for them in steep-sided valleys, crags, and gullies.
During spring and autumn migration they may also be found on the south and east coats of the UK in short grassy areas.
Did you know?
Ring ouzels have a number of alternative English names including heath throstle, mountain colley, tor ouzel, fell blackbird, and hill chack, many of them related to the bird’s favoured mountainous habitat.
In the southwest they are also known as the Michaelmas thrush because they pass through the area in September before leaving the UK for their wintering grounds.