I have a particular fondness for blackbirds, for they always reminds me of my boyhood, of a huge elm which grew in my parents front garden just outside my room, and of the sweet early blackbird song which issued forth from the high boughs. Sadly the tree has long gone with many others as Dutch Elm disease swept the country back then, yet happily the blackbird still sings its sweet soothing melody.
Also called the ‘Eurasian Blackbird’, these true thrushes have a distinction between the sexes, with the male of the species being completely jet black, and the female with dark brownish back plumage with variable streaked or mottled underside. Both sexes have bright yellow-orange beaks, and yellow eye-rings. The juveniles have dark bills and gingery-brown plumage.
As ground feeders, they eat worms, a wide range of insects, fruit and berries, and are often visitors to the base of our bird tables scavenging titbits other birds have dropped. Breeding males state their territory by singing, and a pair may hold their territory over the year if the conditions are favourable. The nest is made from grass and mud forming a cup and lined with grass in a bush, a hedge or a low tree. The female lays 3 to 5 eggs in 2 to 4 broods from March to August. They can live for up to 5 years.
Seen all year round in various habitats including gardens, parks, hedgerows, commons, heaths, fields and woodland. The Blackbird is the UK’s commonest bird, mainly resident, although some may migrate to southern Europe for the winter. It is widespread throughout the UK. There are almost 5 million breeding pairs in the UK, and 10-15 million UK wintering birds as populations are swelled from visiting birds from Scandinavia and northern Europe. These migrant birds tend to have duller bills then our resident birds.
The Blackbird has a rich, melodious voice, and when the male sings its summer song from high tree tops it is said to even rival that of the Nightingale for its sweetness. Yet when disturbed or sensing danger it can be quite noisome with a sudden burst of loud, hysterical chatter.
Photographs of Blackbird (Turdus merula) taken February 2012, local wood (top image), and rear garden (bottom image), Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2012. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.