Turdus merula

Blackbird (Turdus merula) male

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.

Blackbird (Turdus merula) male

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.

8 thoughts on “Blackbird

  1. Don’t find this species down here. Closest we get is the Olive Thrush.
    But, like you, I remember them from growing up in England.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have never had this myself, so that is something really special your grandmother had there. They can get used to you being around, and will sometimes allow you to get fairly close to them, but most of the time they fly off screeching.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. She had a postage sized piece of lawn and would sit on a garden chair and drop scraps for the bird and it would come as close as her feet to eat.
        I witnessed this first hand.

        Our Cape Robins can be quite daring at times and have been known to
        ( Purposely) venture past the threshold in pursuit of a scrap or two.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Growing up the U.S., I always found the Beatles’ song “Blackbird” a bit confusing. It was difficult to imagine that a “blackbird singing in the dead of night” could be a beautiful thing as our North American blackbirds sound like rusty screen doors. In London I saw and heard my first Eurasian Blackbird. It was a revelation.

    Liked by 2 people

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