Family Thrushes (Turdidae)

Least Concern

Abyssinian Thrush (Turdus abyssinicus)


French: Merle abyssinien German: Abessiniendrossel Spanish: Zorzal abisinio
Other common names: Ethiopian Thrush

Turdus abyssinicus

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,



Taxonomy complex and not fully understood. Commonly united with T. olivaceus; see remarks under that species. Differs from T. olivaceus as constituted here, however, in all-yellow bill (no dark upper culmen) (2); yellow vs non-contrasting grey eyering (2); notably blackish lores (2); and much less contrasting throat pattern (ns[1]). Total score here thus falls just short of clear support for separation, but (a) study of vocalizations may be expected to reveal further differences, (b) each taxon in each group possesses further (mosaically distributed) plumage and mensural characters, and (c) molecular evidence indicates that unification with T. olivaceus untenable#R. Proposed race mwaki (described from W Turkana, in Kenya), which implicitly also includes porini (replacement for fuscatus, described from N Nandi Forest, in Kenya), considered indistinguishable from nominate. Six subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • T. a. abyssinicus J. F. Gmelin, 1789 – Eritrea and Ethiopia S to S South Sudan (Imatong Mts), N & E Uganda, N, W & C Kenya and N Tanzania (S to Loliondo).
  • T. a. baraka (Sharpe, 1903) – NE DRCongo (Virunga Park) and W Uganda (Rwenzori Mts).
  • T. a. deckeni Cabanis, 1868 – NE Tanzania (Longido S to Monduli and Mt Kilimanjaro).
  • T. a. oldeani P. L. Sclater & Moreau, 1935 – Mbulu and Crater Highlands, in N Tanzania.
  • T. a. bambusicola Neumann, 1908 – E DRCongo (highlands of Kivu S to Mt Kabobo), Burundi, Rwanda, SW Uganda (Bwindi Impenetrable Forest) and extreme NW Tanzania.
  • T. a. nyikae Reichenow, 1904 – C, E & SW Tanzania S to Nyika Plateau of N Malawi and NE Zambia.
  • Descriptive notes

    20–24 cm; 49–87 g (nominate), 52–60 g (bambusicola). Adult has upperparts dark brownish grey, becoming richer brown over forehead, crown, lores and ear-coverts, more... read more


    Song (in E Africa) a series of unhurried, deliberate, short phrases of 5–8 clear, pleasant,... read more


    Mainly highland forest of various types (including Hagenia), primary, secondary, gallery... read more

    Food and feeding

    Wide range of animal and vegetable foods. Animal food includes wide variety of insects (beetles, moths, caterpillars, grasshoppers, mantids... read more


    Season Jul–Aug in Eritrea, Dec–Jan and Mar–Aug in Ethiopia and Jan–Apr in Sudan; Oct–Jul (peak Mar–Jun, above 2200 m mainly Dec–Apr and... read more


    Generally resident and sedentary, but altitudinal migration without details reported in Ethiopia.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Generally common throughout large latitudinal range, and sometimes abundant, e.g. at lower elevations in Eritrea, and parts of... read more

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Abyssinian Thrush (Turdus abyssinicus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 11 December 2019).