This section is from the book "The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation", by George Abbey. Also available from Amazon: The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation.
In the northern parts of the kingdom this bird is rather uncommon, though met with in many districts, and when taking to devouring fruit is very severe in its depredations. In recent years its distribution has become more general, possibly a consequence of the closer preservation of game and the restrictions on bird-nesting, and in some localities has so multiplied as to be regarded by fruit-growers as one of the worst birds to fruit, particularly in some of the southern counties. It is specially troublesome with cherries and soft fruits, and after these persistently eats pears, apples, plums and damsons. In the north of England we have found it most destructive to currants, particularly red, though it will take black currants. But where wild fruit or berries are plentiful it does not trouble gardeners seriously; but feeds on wild or covert plants and berries, many game preservers having introduced berry-bearing plants to coverts as food for pheasants in recent years; and in not a few localities there are large breaks of raspberries, currants, and even gooseberries, that have sprung up naturally from seeds assumed to have been carried there by bird pilferers from gardens.
These wild or semi-wild fruits - species of Berberis, Ribes, Rubus, Rosa, Crataegus, Cotoneaster, Prunus, Pyrus, Ilex, Hedera, Juniperus, and Taxus - afford a supply of food for the thrush family, and it has been suggested that wild fruits should be planted in close proximity to orchards and fruit-plantations so that birds may be attracted and kept out of mischief. Certainly this is desirable from an ornamental point of view, and also when the woods are some distance from the fruit plantations, it also being right that those protecting wild birds should provide food so as to keep them from going astray; but what of the fungoid and insect pests that would be fostered on wild plants and thence make inroads on the cultivated fruits of the same species?
Alas ! there is no help for the fruit-grower but the destruction of the eggs when the bird is relatively tame, and shooting when it will not content itself with wild fruits, it being too wary for capture by trapping. Its utility is measured by the destruction of caterpillars, beetles and other insects, slugs, snails, and worms. The birds are usually found in pairs, in summer time, and later on in small flocks, when they are shy and wild; even in attacking a crop the paired birds keep in close company, and are not easily approached within gunshot. Mistletoe berries, however, are a tempting bait, their fondness for them being noted by Aristotle, and one compensation for the disagreeable task of killing them is that of their being good for food.