Slightly smaller and slimmer than a blackbird – male ring ouzels are particularly distinctive with their black plumage with a pale wing panel and striking white breast band.
These secretive migratory moorland birds are found in reasonable numbers in Upper Nidderdale, although nationally they have suffered declines of 56% in the last 40 years.
They closely resemble blackbirds but males have a distinctive white collar and breast. They winter in North Africa and Southern Spain and return to their breeding grounds here in March each year.
Like most upland birds, the ring ouzel usually nests on the ground, at altitudes above 250m. They can also nest high up on a rocky crevice or in a disused quarry. Their preferred nesting spots are in tall heather on a steep sided slope with some scattered Rowan trees at the bottom. They fatten up on Rowan berries in autumn before heading back south to their wintering grounds.
Their territorial range is usually within 250m of the nest so it is important that there is short grazed grassland nearby, where they can forage for earthworms, which is their main diet during the spring and summer.
Usually four eggs are laid and the chick grows up very fast – from hatching to fledging in just 13 days!
The reasons for their decline are not fully understood but are thought to be linked to birds being shot on their way to and from their winter grounds, and global warming which may make it difficult for them to raise a second brood.
Research has discovered that birds nesting in different dales have different calls, with dale having its own distinct dialect!