Fieldfare etymology

A fieldfare last Saturday.

I went for a walk on the moors on Saturday (photos here). It was extremely wet.

On my way down, I spotted between 40 and 50 fieldfares gathered in the gloaming on some powerlines. A couple of other walkers spotted me looking at the birds and came over to ask me what they were. I explained that they were fieldfares. They asked me what I knew about them.

As luck would have it, I had listened to a podcast about fieldfares earlier that week, so I knew quite a bit about them. So I told the walkers about how fieldfares come over from Scandinavia in the winter, how they have a distinctive call (which a few of the birds immediately obliged me by demonstrating), how they hang around with redwings, how they have a distinctive grey hood, blah, blah, blah… My new friends seemed very impressed with my vast knowledge of all things fieldfare.

"So why are they called fieldfares?" asked the woman (who I couldn't help noticing was rather cute). It was a fair enough question. Unfortunately, I hadn't a clue what the answer was. But I was on a roll, so I made one up:

"Ah!" I ahed. "It's because they are 'fare' (food) which is found in fields. Our ancestors used to eat them. Quite tasty, by all accounts. They're a type of thrush, just like blackbirds… 'Four-and-twenty blackbirds baked in a pie' and all that!"

OK, so I bullshat for Britain. But I had a new-found reputation to live up to.

Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.


  1. I looked it up afterwards... The 'fare' means 'travel' (as in 'wayfarer'). So a fieldfare is something that travels through fields (which is exactly what they do, in large flocks).

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