Blackbirds (Turdus merula) are one of the most prevalent birds in the UK. We see these birds in our gardens all year round, but do they migrate? Well, interestingly enough, blackbirds do migrate, and below, we’re looking at where these birds go when they decide to fly away for the winter.
Blackbirds in the UK are generally non-migratory and stay very close to home throughout the year. However, blackbirds from northern Europe often migrate south and end up in the UK throughout the winter.
So, while our resident blackbirds may not travel too far in the winter, their Scandinavian cousins do migrate.
If you do notice fewer blackbirds in your garden during the winter, there is an explanation for this. As we’ll see, blackbirds are curious creatures when it comes to migrating.
So, blackbirds from Scandinavian countries will often join our resident blackbirds in the UK to keep warm over winter. However, some blackbirds in the UK may also travel a bit further from their homes during the winter in search of food. Most blackbirds won’t travel too far, in fact, only a few miles down the road. Still, if you see fewer blackbirds in your garden over the winter, it is likely that they have gone in search of food elsewhere.
Blackbirds in the UK are generally non-migratory
Blackbirds from the UK will often stay here all year round. And, as long as the food in your area is in good supply, you’ll see blackbirds in your garden all year round.
Blackbirds tend to stay close to their breeding grounds for most of their life. However, if the food sources in that area dry up, they may be forced to go in search of food. The blackbirds will stay in the UK, though. They will simply fly until they find a better food source, which could only be a few miles away.
Blackbirds from northern Europe will begin migrating to the UK in the middle of autumn. However, if they have a good food source in their country, they may not leave until late autumn early winter.
In fact, if blackbirds in northern Europe find a very good food source on the way to the UK, they may never reach our shores during the winter. The reason that blackbirds do migrate is in search of food.
So, once they find a good food source, they will hunker down for the winter. Blackbirds will then go back to their breeding grounds in early spring, ready to find a mate.
The blackbirds in the UK don’t travel far. Often, they will stay in their breeding grounds all year round unless the food dries up. If the food in their breeding grounds is no longer available, they may travel a few miles down the road in search of food. However, it is very rare for blackbirds to travel any greater distance than this.
Northern European blackbirds, though, will travel as far as the UK during the winter. And blackbirds in Northern America can travel up to 800 miles south for the winter. So, blackbirds in the UK certainly travel the shortest distance to find food in the winter.
Close up portrait of a Blackbird
Blackbirds in the UK, if they do need to migrate at all, may travel about 50-100 miles away from their breeding grounds, but this is extremely rare. More often, blackbirds will stay in their breeding grounds but may travel a couple of miles in search of food.
Northern European blackbirds, though, may travel to the UK to spend the winter in warmer weather. There are a lot of blackbirds in Scandinavian countries that make this journey every winter.
Blackbirds in Northern America also travel great distances in the winter, with some flying over 800 miles south to stay warm and find good food sources.
Eurasian Blackbird during the winter
Not all blackbirds migrate. In fact, many blackbirds that live in the UK very rarely leave their breeding grounds at all.
Blackbirds that are residence in the UK can occasionally leave their breeding grounds during the winter to find food, but they will likely only travel a few miles in their search. For the most part, blackbirds will stay at home throughout the year and be joined by their Northern European cousins as they travel to find warmer weather and good food.
Some blackbirds don’t migrate because they simply don’t need to. As long as blackbirds have a good food source near where they live, they have no reason to migrate.
Migrating takes a lot of energy. It is like us walking to find some winter sun and good food. So, if the blackbirds have everything they need to survive in the winter where they are, why leave?
Blackbird eating red berries
Most resident blackbirds in the UK will still be around in the winter, and you can enjoy them feeding in your gardens. They will also be joined by Northern European blackbirds from Scandinavian countries too.
If you have a bird table in your garden, please make sure to fill it regularly during the winter months. Many birds, including blackbirds, rely on bird feeders and tables in the winter. Blackbirds love eating on the ground and at bird tables. So, ensure they have plenty of seeds, mealworms and fat balls to eat.
You may notice that during the summer, blackbirds tend to disappear for a while. This is because they are moulting. Most blackbirds hide away during the moulting season because they are venerable to predators. As they moult, they can’t fly as well as normal. So, they will hide away until their feathers are ready to fly.
Another reason that blackbirds leave our garden during the summer is in search of food. They like to go out into the countryside and take advantage of the natural food on offer in the summer.
Male common blackbird in moult
Blackbirds may leave your garden suddenly in the summer for a few reasons. Firstly, in the summer, blackbirds moult, and many like to hide away as they do this to protect themselves from predators. They can still fly during the moulting season, but they aren’t as nimble as usual.
The other reason blackbirds disappear during August is food-related. During August, there is an abundance of natural food in the countryside, and the blackbirds leave our gardens to take advantage of this amazing food source.
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