The Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula) is a common garden bird and a firm favourite among UK birdwatchers. You might spot these bold and vocal songbirds anywhere, from woodlands and farmlands to parks and gardens. Have you ever wondered what they eat? And what can you feed them?
Blackbirds are mainly insectivorous, although they eat a variety of other invertebrates, as well as fruits and some seeds. Their diet changes somewhat according to the seasons, with fruits becoming more dominant in the winter.
Blackbirds find most of their food on the ground, in the soil, or under debris and moss. They eat windfall fruit on the ground, but these adaptable birds will also consume berries directly from the branch.
Suburban areas provide rich foraging grounds for wild Blackbirds, and you can watch these entertaining birds forage naturally if you have an established garden. However, birdwatchers can also provide food like mealworms and dried fruit to keep them returning.
This article covers the diet and feeding habits of the Blackbird. Continue reading to learn more about what they eat and how you can encourage these fine birds to visit your home.
Common Blackbird eating rowan berries
Blackbirds are omnivorous birds with a highly varied diet. Read on for a closer look at each of their major diet groups.
In the UK, earthworms are the Blackbirds' most important food source. These are targeted throughout the year, apart from during dry spells when the worms burrow out of reach into deeper soil.
Blackbirds have ‘soft bills’ which are not particularly effective for seed-eating. However, they appreciate soft seeds like sunflower hearts and rolled oats as extra energy sources in the winter.
Blackbird with a beak full of mealworms
The Blackbird's most important food sources are crawling and burrowing insects and other invertebrates. The following are all regular prey items:
Blackbirds eat many types of fruits, particularly in the winter when insects are scarce. Plants like dogwood, barberry, hawthorn, juniper, and brambles provide valuable food sources, but these birds will readily eat cultivated fruits like apples and raisins at the bird table.
Blackbirds cannot survive on fruits alone, and they will take larger prey when available. Continue reading to learn which animals find themselves on the Blackbird’s menu.
These omnivorous birds will prey on almost any animal small enough to overpower and swallow. Blackbirds are known to eat the following animals:
Close up of a Blackbird pulling a worm out of the ground
Blackbirds are a familiar sight to many birdwatchers in the UK, but have you ever stopped to watch them forage? Read this section to learn how they find their food.
Blackbirds find earthworms with their eyes and their ears. They might spot their prey above the ground, detect the movement of soil as they burrow, or even hear worms moving below the surface.
They search by running forward a few paces and stopping, methodically covering the ground. If the prey is detected, they may stab their bills into the soil or dig to retrieve their meal.
We’re not exactly sure how many worms a Blackbird eats daily, but the true figure could be pretty surprising. Birds eat an impressive percentage of their total body weight each day. Assuming a Blackbird eats about 15% of its own mass, that could be sixty worms of ¼ gram each.
When conditions are good, Blackbirds can catch an earthworm every minute, and they might even capture more than they can eat at these times.
A female blackbird with a beak full of insects and worms
Blackbirds feed every day. They do not forage randomly throughout the day but have peak feeding windows, periods of rest, and other daily activities.
Blackbirds are not your typical feeder birds and show little interest in general bird seed mixes. However, they will readily visit bird feeders that provide fruit and mealworms, particularly in the winter and when nesting.
Blackbirds do most of their foraging on the ground and are too large to feed from many hanging bird feeders. They will visit the bird table, although a ground feeding tray is probably the most effective option for feeding these birds.
Blackbird foraging in the grass
Blackbirds may feed at any time of the day. However, some observations of feeding times in the winter show a strong preference for the period between one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset.
Interestingly, their feeding times can change in response to environmental conditions. These birds have adapted to urban areas with high levels of artificial light at night, which may extend their foraging time by several hours in some cases, particularly in the winter.
Blackbirds find most of their food by searching on the ground. They will look and listen for the movement of live prey and actively search through leaf litter and debris for sheltering insects. Blackbirds also search among the branches of trees and bushes for caterpillars and fruits.
Blackbirds are omnivorous in the winter, feeding on fruits, berries, insects and seeds. The cold, short days of winter create a challenge as insect activity decreases. Wild and cultivated fruits and berries become increasingly important at this time of year, and they take more scraps and bird foods provided by people.
Blackbird in the winter snow
Earthworms and caterpillars are the most important food sources for Blackbirds in the Summer, but they will also feed on various other small insects and invertebrates.
Baby Blackbirds receive a protein-rich diet of soft-bodied invertebrates. Earthworms and caterpillars are the favourite choices, depending on which is most abundant in the surrounding area.
Male blackbird feeding a young fledgling a strawberry
Would you like to feed and attract Blackbirds to your garden? There's a good chance that a pair of these common birds already live near your home, so follow these tips to encourage them to visit.
Feeding garden birds is a rewarding pastime and can benefit local birdlife if done responsibly. Provide Blackbirds with healthy foods in hygienic conditions and enjoy great sightings of these birds for years to come.
The best foods for Blackbirds are insects and fruits that mimic their natural diet. Keep reading to learn what to feed Blackbirds in your garden.
Blackbirds are not fussy eaters and they happily accept offerings put out for other insect and fruit-eating birds. Mealworms and waxworms are ideal choices throughout the year, but dried raisins and currants are a great addition in the winter when they are searching for fruits.
The following foods are also great options for feeding Blackbirds:
Male and female blackbirds at a garden feeder
There are a few types of food that you should never feed Blackbirds or any other birds. Spoiled meat, mouldy seeds, and highly processed foods can all be harmful to their health. Throw out food that has gone uneaten and disinfect your birdfeeders regularly to avoid spreading disease.
Blackbirds drink fresh water, although they gather a lot of moisture from insects and fruit. Providing a freshwater source is one of the best ways to attract many beautiful garden birds, including the Blackbird.
Providing food and water is an effective and rewarding means of attracting wild birds to your garden. However, there are other ways to make your garden more attractive.
Consider growing fruiting shrubs and trees to provide a ready natural food source for Blackbirds in the winter. Maintaining healthy lawn areas and leaving mulch and leaf litter to collect in some parts of the garden will encourage insect food sources throughout the year.
Blackbirds are wonderful birds to have around. These common birds can help to control pest insects in the garden, and their morning song is a lovely start to the day.
Close up of a blackbird perched on a fence
Blackbirds do prefer to feed on the ground, but will also feed from bushes and trees. They’re generally too large for hanging bird feeders but will happily feed on large bird tables, particularly enclosed bird tables.
Blackbirds are opportunistic feeders, and there are a few species that prey upon animals, including young birds, lizards, amphibians and small mammals such as mice and shrews. This is fairly rare, however. The Common and Red-winged blackbirds are not known to pursue other birds as a food source.
Fruit is ideal for blackbirds’ softbills. Berries such as blackberries, holly berries, raspberries, grapes, cherries, rosehips, rowan berries, elderberries and hawthorn berries are frequently eaten by blackbirds. They’ll also eat apples, plums, figs and other wild and garden fruits.
Female blackbird eating ripe Mahonia aquifolium berries
Bread is soft, which is excellent for a blackbird’s soft bill, but it’s nutritionally poor and won’t provide the bird with the nutrients it needs to thrive and survive. Whilst birds can be fed bread, it should only be provided to supplement seeds, suet and other healthier foods.
Blackbirds eat apples growing in the wild as well as dried or diced apples placed on the ground or on bird tables.
Blackbirds do eat invertebrates, including slugs and worms. In fact, blackbirds may even help to control numbers of garden slugs, including some invasive species, which is great news for gardeners!
Common Blackbird eating an apple off the ground
Blackbirds do eat snails and have been observed dropping them on their shells to make them easier to eat.
Blackbirds are big fans of berries and other small fruits.
Blackbirds have softbills, making sunflower seeds somewhat of a challenge to eat, unless they’re softened by moisture or rain.
Raisins, sultanas and currants are all excellent foods for blackbirds and other thrushes and are amongst their favourite foods.
Blackbird singing from a tree
Oats are extremely nutritious and are ideal for blackbirds, robins and other thrushes. You can find oats in many thrush, songbird and soft-billed bird food mixes.
So long as the peanuts are crushed or flaked then yes, you can absolutely feed blackbirds peanuts.
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