Male Ring Ouzel, Turdus torquatus. Cairngorms National Park, Scotland

Ring ouzel

Ring ouzels breed on moorland and often use in-bye grasslands for feeding.

Ring ouzels in brief

They winter in the Mediterranean and North Africa. The UK range contracted by 27 per cent between 1970 and 1990, and the population is thought to have decreased in number, by about 60 per cent, between 1990 and 1999. 

Possible causes of this decline include afforestation, changes in stocking management and grazing regimes, and grassland improvement. 

Key points

  • Provide heather at least 30cm tall on the steeper slopes and a mosaic of heather and short grass elsewhere.
  • Avoid intensive tree planting near nesting and feeding areas.
  • Nesting areas need protection from overgrazing and burning.
  • In areas of rank vegetation, create a mosaic of heather and grass close to nesting areas by burning, cutting or grazing.

What this species needs

Mature heather or bracken on steep rocky slopes for nesting 

Ring ouzels usually nest in mature heather or occasionally under bracken, often on rock ledges or steep slopes. 

Short-grazed grassland for feeding 

A mosaic of heather, grassland and bracken provides the best conditions for ring ouzels. They often fly down to in-bye pastures to feed if there is insufficient short grassland on the nearby hills. During the breeding season, they eat earthworms, leatherjackets, insects and spiders. Moorland berries such as bilberry, crowberry and rowan are important in the late summer and autumn.   

Ling heather Calluna vulgaris; Bracken Pteridium aquilinum; & grasses. Moorland and birch woodland at Corrimony RSPB reserve. Scotland. August 2007.