Things you need to know about BLACKBIRDS!

A short fact file about the Common Blackbird, including information about their diet, their appearance, how and when they nest and much more!
The blackbird is the fourth most common garden bird in the UK and a familiar sight around parks, gardens and woodlands across the country. Despite their name, only the males are truly black, females are dark brown and young birds have a more mottled brown colouring. Males also have a bright orange or yellow beak and eye ring, these are much duller in females and absent in young birds. They have a wingspan of 35 to 38 centimetres and grow to around 100grams in weight. They often move around by hopping rather than running and sometimes have their wings dropped and their tails raised as they do so.
Blackbirds are omnivores and will adjust their diet in line with the seasons, during the spring and summer they feed almost exclusively on worms and other invertebrates but during the autumn and winter they switch to eating mostly berries and fruits. They have a habit of wiping and insects they manage to catch on the ground or through grass to clean any dirt off before they eat.
Blackbird pairs hold territories throughout the year but during the colder months they allow other birds to enter and pass through without much resistance. However, come the spring time their territorial behaviour peaks and they become aggressive towards other blackbirds. It is during this time that the pair begin nesting, and when this depends a lot on the weather. In cold springs nesting can start as late as the end of march or even April but in other years it can begin from early February onwards. Research has also shown that blackbirds in towns and cities start nesting earlier than their countryside counterparts although if this is down to the increased artificial lighting or higher temperatures is not completely clear. The female alone creates the nest which is a cup shaped structure of twigs, leaves and other plant material lined with a thin layer of mud and grass. This is usually less than 2 metres from the ground amongst dense vegetation. Each clutch consists of 3 to 5 speckled blue eggs which the female incubates alone for 13 to 14 days. From here both parents feed the chicks who develop really fast. They usually fledge at around 14 days but can leave the nest and survive from as early as 9 days if it is disturbed. At the point of fledging the young cannot fly and spend several days on the ground whilst they find their wings. This can unfortunately result in a lot of them falling prey to cats or being unnecessarily rescued by well meaning people who assume they are injured or out of the nest too soon. Once the young have fledged the male does most of their feeding and after a further 2 to three weeks the youngsters move away from their parents territories. Each pair can produce 3 or sometimes four batches of young in a season and with the final clutch of the year they share out the parental duties a bit more. Each adult takes care of a portion of the fledglings which increases their chances of survival throughout the coming winter. Blackbirds mate for life and from the outside appear to be completely monogamous, however this isn’t always the case. Studies have shown that although a pair stay together, up to 17% of their eggs are not genetically related to the male with which the female is mated.
In the UK there are around 5 million pairs of blackbirds and this number swells to 15 million birds in the winter when some migrate here from Scandinavia and western Europe. A lot of young blackbirds do not survive to the point of fledging the nest with only around 30% of nests resulting in fledged young but if the birds survive to this stage they have an average life expectancy of 3.4 years. In extreme circumstances they can live for a lot longer than this with the oldest wild bird on record making it to 20 years and 3 months of age.

Some of this footage was obtained using creative commons licences. Here are the originals.

Thumbnail image: CCBY3.0…
Creative Commons Attribution licence (reuse allowed)

About agogo22

Director of Manchester School of Samba at
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2 Responses to Things you need to know about BLACKBIRDS!

  1. Monogamous, ha! I watched a male with his missus in our garden, and then he flew up to another lady on the neighbour’s roof and shagged her there. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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