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the web of life in southern Africa

Turdus smithi (Karoo thrush) 

Geelbeklyster [Afrikaans]; Merle du Karroo [French]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Muscicapidae > Genus: Turdus

Turdus smithi (Karoo thrush) 

Karoo thrush. [photo Gerhard Theron ]

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to southern Africa, occurring from southern Namibia and Botswana to central and western South Africa. It generally prefers riverine vegetation, such as riparian woodland along the Orange River, but it is also common in suburban gardens, in fact it is in the top 8 most common birds in Johannesburg.

Predators and parasites

It has been recorded as prey of the Booted eagle (Aquila pennatus).


It eats a variety of fruit and small animals, doing most of its foraging on the ground, flicking and scratching through leaf litter. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Animals
  • Fruit
    • Schinus molle (Pepper tree)
    • Ziziphus mucronata (Buffalo-thorn)
    • Kiggelaria africana (Wild-peach)
    • Celtis africana (White-stinkwood)
    • Rhus pyroides (Common currant)
    • Diospyros lycoides (Bluebush star-apple)
    • Pyracantha (firethorns)
    • Cotoneaster
    • hawthorn
    • garden fruit
      • plums
      • peaches
      • apricots


  • The nest (see image below) is built solely by the female, consisting of an messy cup built mainly of moist, coarse grass with weed stems, leaves, bark strips and twigs, lined with fine material such as rootlets; if material is not already damp it is dipped in water. It is typically placed in a three-pronged fork of a tree branch.
Turdus smithi (Karoo thrush)  

Karoo thrush nest with eggs, Modimolle, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ]

  • Egg-laying season is from October-February.
  • It lays 1-4 eggs, which are probably incubated solely by the female for about 14 days.
  • The chicks are brooded constantly for the first 2 days of their lives and are fed on a diet of insects and other animals. They eventually leave the nest after about 16 days but can barely fly, so they only become fully independent about 2 months later.


Not threatened, in fact it has benefited from the introduction of man-made habitats.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.