Family Thrushes (Turdidae)

Least Concern

Alpine Thrush (Zoothera mollissima)


French: Grive de Hodgson German: Felserddrossel Spanish: Zorzal dorsiliso del Himalaya
Other common names: Plain-backed Thrush (when treated as conspecific with Z. griseiceps and Z. salimalii)

T[urdus]. mollissimus


, 1842,

Darjeeling, India


Formerly treated as conspecific with Z. dixoni. Until very recently considered to consist of three subspecies (nominate, whiteheadi and griseiceps) under the name “Plain-backed Thrush”, but painstaking fieldwork and data analysis#R have revealed three cryptic species: present species (with described form whiteheadi considered undiagnosable), Z. griseiceps and Z. salimalii (the last previously not identified even as a subspecies). Present species shows subtle differences in plumage, bare parts and morphometrics, and strong ones in habitat (open alpine scrub vs forest) and song (short, hurried strophes of mainly rasping, grating, scratchy, cracked notes, very unmusical, with a few squeaky, clearer notes admixed, tempo relatively even, beginning and ending rather abruptly, vs much more musical notes)#R; see Z. griseiceps and Z. salimalii for scores. In addition, non-breeding specimens from Yunnan seemingly divergent genetically (“Yunnan Thrush”), but no morphological or plumage differences from present species#R. Monotypic.


NW, C & E Himalayas (from N Pakistan and N India) E to S China (SE Xizang, NW Yunnan, Sichuan); non-breeding also at lower altitudes and in W Yunnan.

Descriptive notes

25–27 cm; 80–112 g. Adult is plain warm olive-brown above from crown to tail, with whitish eyering, and buffy face marked dark below eye, on rear ear-coverts and... read more


Song, from hidden position on side branch of tall tree, decidedly unmusical, usually a short set of... read more


Breeds in shady damp areas in alpine meadows, boulder-strewn grassy slopes with treeline shrubbery... read more

Food and feeding

Insects, snails, leeches; also berries, seeds. Forages on ground in shade. Skulking. Turns over leaves and rotting vegetation; probes in... read more


Apr–Jul in Himalayas, mainly Jun–Jul in Pakistan. Nest a large cup of vegetation, including moss, lined with fine fibres,... read more


Undertakes seasonal vertical movements and relatively short-distance migrations (Sept–Apr).... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Generally uncommon throughout its range. Very rare and local in Pakistan; fairly common in India and Nepal; uncommon in China. This... read more

Recommended citation

Collar, N., Christie, D.A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Alpine Thrush (Zoothera mollissima). 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 16 June 2019).