Blackbird Nesting: A Complete Guide

Blackbird Nesting: A Complete Guide

Blackbirds (Turdus merula), are a very interesting bird species when it comes to their nesting habits. They have adapted a get-in, get-out approach to nesting and raising their young, but everything must be right for this breeding technique to work. So, how does a blackbird get its nest ready for its young? Well, let’s find out, shall we, in this guide to blackbird nesting.

Despite blackbird chicks being ready to fledge in 13-14 days, it takes about two weeks for the female blackbird to build the nest. It’s surprising that blackbirds take so long to construct their nests when they don’t need them for much time at all. In fact, the chicks can leave the nest and survive at nine days!

So, why go to all the trouble of making such a good nest in the first place? Well, as we’ll see, blackbirds use their nests to their advantage for many seasons, and they need to be very well constructed because of where blackbirds nest.

Blackbird nests are constructed of twigs, grass, straw and other plant materials that are shaped into a cup. Nothing strange yet. However, after the cup is complete, the blackbird then lines it with mud and adds a layer of fine grass in the middle. They do all of this because they like to nest low down in suitable cover. So, they must have a strong nest that can protect their young.

Key Blackbird Nesting Facts
Nesting seasonMarch to July, sometimes into August
Nesting materialTwigs, grasses, straw, plant materials
Nest typeCup-shaped
Nest locationTrees, shrubs and climbing plants
Number of broods2 - 3 usually, but sometimes up to 5
Clutch size3 to 5 eggs
Egg colourPale greenish-blue with pale reddish-brown spots
Egg size29 x 21 mm
Egg weight7.2 g
Incubation period12 - 14 days, by the female
Fledgling period13 - 14 days after hatching
Reuse nestsRarely, but same breeding territory often used
Use nest boxesYes
The nest of a Blackbird with 4 pale blue eggs inside

The nest of a Blackbird with 4 pale blue eggs inside

When do blackbirds nest?

Blackbirds nest during the breeding season. Their breeding season lasts from early March to late July, but some leave it until a bit later in the year, and chicks are commonly found in the nest well into August.

Warmer and colder spells during the spring can often delay or bring the breeding season forward. Interestingly, the nesting season begins two weeks earlier in gardens than in woodland.

Before the breeding season begins, the blackbirds need a nest. This is built by the female and takes two weeks to complete. However, because they are so well constructed, blackbirds can often use the same nest for multiple breeding seasons.

Female Blackbird feeding chicks insects, in the nest

Female Blackbird feeding chicks insects, in the nest

How long do blackbirds nest for?

Blackbirds will nest for as long as their chicks need to be protected. This usually is only 13-14 days, and some chicks can leave the nest at nine days if the nest is being threatened by predators.

A blackbird nest can take up to two weeks to construct, however, this can vary depending on the availability of suitable materials, along with the time taken to scout out a suitable location.

It seems a bit strange that they take just as long to build the nest as to raise their young. But the nest needs to be strong. Blackbirds like to nest low to the ground in shrubs, climbing plants and small trees. Some even nest on the ground.

While many birds take advantage of natural structures in trees to keep their nests strong, most blackbirds can’t. Instead, they use twigs, grass, straw and mud to keep their nests in good order.

Where do blackbirds nest?

Blackbirds like to nest low to the ground. Some will nest in trees, but others prefer the cover of shrubs and even climbing plants. There are even some blackbirds that nest on the floor, although this is usually under the cover of shrubs or something.

As blackbirds like to nest close to the ground, there is an ever-present danger of predators getting into the nest. However, blackbirds have the ability to fledge very quickly. In most cases, blackbird chicks are ready to leave the nest in about 14 days, and they learn to fly in a week. A typical clutch size for blackbirds is 3-5. And thanks to how quickly they learn to fend for themselves, many of the chicks survive the nesting period.

Male Blackbird (Turdus merula) perched on the branch of a tree

Male Blackbird (Turdus merula) perched on the branch of a tree

How do blackbirds build their nests?

Blackbirds are very clever in how they build their nests. They first start with a layer of small twigs, grass and straw. They weave this material into a big cup. They then line this with mud. The final touches are a sprinkling of fine grass inside the nest to lay their eggs. All told, it takes the female blackbird two weeks to complete.

We aren’t sure what the male blackbird is doing during this time, and I bet the female is wondering the same thing!

Blackbirds are effectively creating wattle and daub by adding mud to their nest. We used to make houses out of wattle and daub. It is incredibly strong (nearly as strong as concrete) and can protect from the elements nicely. It also provides structure to their nests and some safety for the chicks.

As blackbirds like to nest close to the ground (sometimes on the ground), their nests need to have good camouflage and be very strong. Some birds take advantage of natural cups and holes in trees to keep their nests strong. However, blackbirds only nest in smaller trees, shrubs and climbing plants. Things that don’t have much structure.

Female Blackbird gathering nesting material to build the nest with

Female Blackbird gathering nesting material to build the nest with

When do baby blackbirds leave the nest?

Baby blackbirds leave the nest around 13-14 days after they have hatched. You may see a baby blackbird or two before this, though, as they can fly a week after they have been born.

Still, they will typically pack their bags and leave mum and dad at around the two-week mark. If the nest is in danger, though, blackbirds can leave it and survive for nine days.

Juvenile Blackbird

Juvenile Blackbird

How many broods do blackbirds have?

Blackbirds can rear 3-5 broods a year. However, most years, it is 2-3 broods. If they feel the conditions are right, they may try for more baby birds. Most blackbirds start nesting in March, but some chicks are still found in nests in August.

Do blackbirds nest in the same place every year?

Blackbirds have been known to use the same nest every year, but not always. They tend to go back to the same place to nest, but they might not necessarily use the same nest.

Beautifully, blackbirds mate for life, and the females and males pick a nesting site together so that the female feels as comfortable as possible. She then has to make the nest while the male goes off to the Three Crows Pub for a pint and catch up, but we’ll gloss over that.

Do blackbirds use nestboxes?

Blackbirds will frequently use suitable nest boxes.

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