Do birds other than song thrushes break snail shells on stones?

Ornithologist Mike Toms explains the song thrush's unique feeding behaviour.

Close-up of a Song thrush (Turdus philomelos) with snail shell near St. Marys in the Isles of Scilly, a common bird in gardens, farms and woodland throughout Britain

Snails are a vital part of the song thrush diet © Nature Picture Library / Getty


Though all of our breeding thrushes have been recorded feeding on snails, it is only the song thrush that is proficient in opening larger shells by smashing them against stones or other hard objects.

The other thrushes tend to feed on smaller snails, which are easily broken open with the bill. Blackbirds have been seen to copy the anvil technique on rare occasions, though far less effectively, and may also rob song thrushes of their hard won prey.

Snails are of seasonal importance for thrushes, taken when favoured foods are less abundant, and feature most commonly during dry summer weather or late winter.

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