I often catch myself mentally editing things as I read: overlong sentences, convoluted paragraphs, disorganized ideas, etc. As a creative exercise, I will periodically present here some piece of short content along with my suggested changes. This gives me a chance to flex my editing muscles while also showing possibilities.
First up: the introductory paragraphs from Wikipedia’s article on the mistle thrush. I achieved a satisfying amount of word count economy, but the greatest improvements came from reorganizing the ideas to flow better. For a more thorough edit I would read the full article and evaluate whether these particular facts merit inclusion, and whether other facts should be added.
Original (312 words)
The mistle thrush (Turdus viscivorus) is a bird common to much of Europe, Asia and North Africa. It is a year-round resident in a large part of its range, but northern and eastern populations migrate south for the winter, often in small flocks. It is a large thrush with pale grey-brown upper parts, a greyish-white chin and throat, and black spots on its pale yellow and off-white under parts. The sexes are similar in plumage, and its three subspecies show only minimal differences. The male has a loud, far-carrying song which is delivered even in wet and windy weather, earning the bird the old name of stormcock.
Found in open woods, parks, hedges and cultivated land, the mistle thrush feeds on a wide variety of invertebrates, seeds and berries. Its preferred fruits include those of the mistletoe, holly and yew. Mistletoe is favoured where it is available, and this is reflected in the thrush’s English and scientific names; the plant, a parasitic species, benefits from its seeds being excreted by the thrush onto branches where they can germinate. In winter, a mistle thrush will vigorously defend mistletoe clumps or a holly tree as a food reserve for when times are hard.
The open cup nest is built against a trunk or in a forked branch, and is fearlessly defended against potential predators, sometimes including humans or cats. The clutch, typically of three to five eggs, is incubated for 12–15 days, mainly by the female. The chicks fledge about 14 – 16 days after hatching. There are normally two broods. There was a large range expansion in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and a small decline in recent decades, perhaps due to changes in agricultural practices. Given its high numbers and very large range, this thrush is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as being of least concern.
Edited (203 words)
The mistle thrush (Turdus viscivorus) is a bird common to much of Europe, Asia, and North Africa. They live in open woods, parks, hedges, and cultivated land where they feed on a wide variety of invertebrates, seeds, and berries. They favor mistletoe where available, which accounts for its English and scientific names. The male sings even in wet and windy weather, which earned the bird its old name: stormcock.
The mistle thrush’s sexes have similar plumage featuring pale grey-brown upperparts, a greyish-white chin and throat, and black spots on its pale yellow and off-white underparts. Its subspecies show only minor differences.
Mating pairs usually produce two broods per year, with the male feeding the young from the first brood while the female incubates the second. A clutch of 3-5 eggs is incubated mainly by the female for 12-15 days, and the chicks fledge 14-16 days after hatching.
After a large range expansion in the 18th and early 19th centuries, a small population decline has been observed in recent decades, possibly due to changes in agricultural practices. Even so, the International Union for Conservation of Nature currently classifies the mistle thrush as a least concern species due to its wide range and high population.