Renowned for its gorgeous voice, the blackbird is a common visitor to gardens, where it can be seen kicking through the leaf litter in search of worms.
Common blackbird, Eurasian blackbird
The male blackbird is the only small, all-black bird in Europe. Its glossy black plumage is contrasted with a bright golden-yellow bill, and orange-yellow eye-ring. It has dark brown legs and a long, broad tail. The female’s head and body are a dark brown colour. Underparts are more rufous and the breast can have some mottling. Juvenile is like the female but with small pale spots on underparts. Male juveniles will develop yellow eye-ring a year after they hatch.
The male blackbird will sing from exposed perches, and move from branch to branch in order to find the best place to express itself from. It will also use rooftops and tv aerials in order to project its voice further. The blackbird has a rich repertoire of calls, including “see”. Its alarm is a shrill chatter. Its song is a variety of flute-like musical phrases.
david m, XC619208. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/619208.
The blackbird hunts in leaf litter, flicking material aside with its bill or scratching around to seek invertebrates. It also forages in meadows and gardens for worms. In autumn and winter, it will also eat wild fruits and berries. Because blackbirds are taller and have larger bills than other thrushes, they have greater leverage and so can pull up larger worms.
Blackbirds can dig through 5-7cm of snow to find food.
Originally a woodland species, the blackbird now lives happily in parks and towns throughout Europe. In Britain, the blackbird is a common and welcome visitor to gardens and will often be seen in the grass hunting for worms. Their favourite time for this activity is in the early morning, or after a rainstorm. In autumn, the best place to see blackbirds is at hedgerows and wooded areas that have fruit trees.
Portrait of a male Blackbird
The blackbird has a long tail which is often jerked upwards and slowly lowered. It often makes quick two-footed bounds or walks a few steps before standing still for a few seconds and cocking its head, looking for worms. In flight, its wings give it a more rounded shape than other members of the thrush family. Starlings have a similar size and body shape to blackbirds and its easy to confuse the two.
The blackbird breeds in woodland, parks and gardens. Both sexes are territorial. The male blackbird attracts the female with a courtships display which consists of running around and bowing its head. The female stays still throughout, watching with some detachment until she decides to accept him. The species is monogamous. The nest will be a stoutly built cup of grass and leaves, lined with mud, then with finer grass. Eggs will be laid from March-July, 3-5 at a time and will be incubated for around 13 days. Females can raise up to 5 broods a year, but more commonly 2-3.
Juvenile Blackbird waiting to be fed
Blackbirds nest with eggs
Blackbirds will typically live for 3 years.
In Britain, most resident blackbirds are sedentary, although in winter they might move down to the south coast for the milder weather. During this time they will also be joined by birds from Northern Europe. These migrants will return to their breeding grounds in early spring.
In Europe, the blackbird is estimated as up to 160 million individuals and therefore evaluated as of least concern. However, in areas where there is a use of pesticides in agriculture, blackbird numbers have been known to decline.