Family Thrushes (Turdidae)

Least Concern

Olive Thrush (Turdus olivaceus)


French: Merle olivâtre German: Kapdrossel Spanish: Zorzal oliváceo

Turdus olivaceus


, 1766,

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa


Taxonomy complex and not fully understood. Commonly considered conspecific with T. helleri and T. ludoviciae (which see); also, most races of T. pelios have in the past been included in present species. Until recently considered conspecific also with T. abyssinicus, T. roehli and T. smithi; see those species. Races milanjensis and swynnertoni may in due course be considered for species rank; study needed. Hybridization with T. libonyana claimed in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Six subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • T. o. milanjensis Shelley, 1893 – S Malawi and NW Mozambique (Mt Namuli).
  • T. o. swynnertoni Bannerman, 1913 – E & EC Zimbabwe and W Mozambique (including Mt Gorongosa).
  • T. o. transvaalensis (Roberts, 1936) – NE South Africa and W Swaziland.
  • T. o. olivaceus Linnaeus, 1766 – SW South Africa (Western Cape).
  • T. o. culminans Clancey, 1982 – E South Africa (W KwaZulu-Natal).
  • T. o. pondoensis Reichenow, 1917 – SE South Africa (E KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape).
  • Descriptive notes

    20–24 cm; 60–101·5 g (nominate), 57–83 g (swynnertoni), 73–96 g (transvaalensis), 65–100 g (pondoensis).... read more


    Song is more hurried and warbled, often without the coda, phrases shorter (less than c. 2 seconds... read more


    Highland forest of various types in N of range, also in lowland woodland, bushveld, exotic... read more

    Food and feeding

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


    Season Sept–Jan in Zimbabwe; Nov–Jan in Mozambique; Oct–Nov in Botswana; in South Africa, Aug–Mar (peak Sept–Nov) in NE, Sept–Jan in E, and... read more


    Sedentary in most of range, but some altitudinal movements, e.g. moves down to 750–1050 m in S... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Generally common throughout large latitudinal range, and sometimes abundant; scarce in N Mozambique, with no evidence that it was... read more

    Recommended citation

    Collar, N. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Olive Thrush (Turdus olivaceus). 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 27 February 2020).