Family Thrushes (Turdidae)

Least Concern

African Thrush (Turdus pelios)


French: Merle africain German: Afrikadrossel Spanish: Zorzal africano

Turdus pelios


, 1850,

Fazughli, Sudan


Taxonomy complex and not fully understood. Subspecies groups based largely on plumage and distribution. Races chiguancoides, nigrilorum, poensis and centralis have in the past been treated as races of T. olivaceus, and the first two along with saturatus sometimes placed with T. libonyana; bocagei, graueri and stormsi have also been placed with T. olivaceus. Situation still not adequately resolved; further research required, but preliminary analysis of songs of chiguancoides, saturatus and centralis suggests no clear differences#R. Proposed race adamauae (N Cameroon) considered indistinguishable from nominate; williami (N Zambia) merged with stormsi. Nine subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • T. p. chiguancoides Seebohm, 1881 – Senegal E to S Burkina Faso, extreme SW Niger and N Ghana.
  • T. p. saturatus (Cabanis, 1882) – W Ghana E to C Cameroon, W Congo and Gabon.
  • T. p. pelios Bonaparte, 1850 – African Thrush – E Cameroon E to S Sudan, South Sudan, W Eritrea and W, C & E Ethiopia.
  • T. p. centralis Reichenow, 1905 – E Congo and S Central African Republic E to S Ethiopia, W Kenya and NW Tanzania.
  • T. p. bocagei (Cabanis, 1882) – W DRCongo and NW & W Angola.
  • T. p. nigrilorum Reichenow, 1892 – Black-lored Thrush – Mt Cameroon (Cameroon).
  • T. p. poensis Alexander, 1903 – Bioko.
  • T. p. graueri Neumann, 1908 – E DRCongo, Burundi, Rwanda and W Tanzania.
  • T. p. stormsi Hartlaub, 1886 – Orange-bellied Thrush – SE DRCongo, E Angola and N Zambia.
  • Descriptive notes

    21–23 cm; 46–78 g. Nominate race is dull brownish-grey from head below eye to tail, with pale buff-white flecks on cheeks, white throat with irregular buff-grey... read more


    Song, all year but less in dry season, and mainly at dawn and dusk, a sustained series of short,... read more


    Open deciduous woodland often near watercourses, riparian woodland, also thickets, savanna and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, including termites, beetles, harvester ants, pupae, locusts; also earthworms, snails, millipedes, small fish; berries (... read more


    Season mainly Jun–Oct in W Africa, but nestlings in Feb in Ghana, Apr–Sept in Nigeria and Jan, Mar–Sept and Dec (but... read more


    Mainly sedentary. Partial migrant in N of range in Gambia (commonest Jun–Sept); in Mali, some... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Widespread and fairly common to common. Abundant on Bioko; fairly common in Sudan; very common in Itombwe Mts, in E DRCongo. Density around villages... read more

    Recommended citation

    Collar, N. (2020). African Thrush (Turdus pelios). 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 26 February 2020).