Birds – The blackbird

Birds – The blackbird

The blackbird's eggs

The blackbird male

In this article we will see: “The blackbird “, birds, diverse and captivating, grace our skies with their melodies. From vibrant plumage to impressive flights, they captivate with endless wonders.

Birds – The blackbird

Brief Background

Length: 25 cm; folded wing: 115-138 mm; wingspan: 38 cm; tail: 94-116 mm; beak: 24 mm. Weight: 100 g.

Appearance and Behaviour

Male: Entirely black plumage; yellow-orange beak; black-brown legs; brown eye; yellow eye-ring.

Female: Dark brown upperparts; pale brownish throat; brown mottled underparts; brown beak.

A bit of greenery amidst the concrete, a lawn, and a few trees at the foot of buildings are enough to attract blackbirds to our surroundings. Well-known in both urban and rural areas, it can only be confused with the other “black” bird in parks, the starling. However, with a little attention, it is easy to distinguish the black plumage of the male and the brown plumage of the female, as well as the orangish-yellow beak and longer tail of the blackbird.

More cautious and nervous, and prone to panicking, it keeps its distance from its fellow birds and does not form noisy flocks. Always suspicious, especially in the countryside, it easily startles and accompanies its blind escapes with a flurry of frightened cries.

The blackbird

The blackbird female

The blackbird's voice sample

It is during the early hours of dawn or at twilight, when the noise of traffic has not yet drowned out its voice, that the male returns to its singing post: a chimney, a clear branch, a statue, or any elevated perch. Clearly visible, it then pours out its rhythmic and melodious strophes, where improvisation blends harmoniously with borrowed refrains. Still somewhat timid during the beautiful winter days, its song reaches its full intensity in March, with each individual showcasing its own interpretive qualities.

Food

While the blackbird has a definite preference for wild berries and fruits, its attraction to orchard and garden produce has not favored its relationship with humans. Yes, blackbirds enjoy cherries, grapes, and many other things. But if we take into account the density of breeding pairs, their natural aggressiveness, and above all, their enormous consumption of larvae, caterpillars, and insects when they have to feed their brood, what do their “damages” amount to?

Let’s not forget the earthworms they delight in, as well as the snails and slugs they swallow whole. Combined with the bread and seeds offered in winter, these complement the bird’s menu, and gardeners have every interest in enlisting their services. Furthermore, their confident, discreet, or sometimes shy presence and their generously bestowed song are worth a handful of cherries each year.

Reproduction of: The blackbird

For blackbirds, February and March mark the time for courtship and reunions. Low-tail displays and threatening postures are the main aspects of their courtship, with young males displaying more excitement than their older counterparts who, while not jaded, lack the ardor of their juniors. Shortly after mating, the female takes the initiative and assumes the leadership of the pair. She determines the location of the nest and takes charge of its construction.

The blackbird's eggs

The blackbird’s eggs

Hidden amidst a bush, brambles, or within the dense growth of climbing ivy, sometimes in an old shed or a tool cabin, or even on the ground in moorlands, the nest is a masterpiece of its kind. Built with twigs, grass, and moss, the interior is cemented with mud and lined with dry grass to provide an even more comfortable deep cup. The first clutch begins in April and consists of 3 eggs.

The eggs have a base color ranging from grayish-green to bluish-green, speckled with reddish-brown to purplish-brown, with significant variations among individuals. Average size: 21 x 29 mm; weight: 7 g. Subsequent clutches often consist of 4 or 5 eggs and take place in May-June for the second clutch and in July for the third.

Lasting for 12 days, it is solely performed by the female. During the first few days after hatching, the chicks are kept warm by the mother and then fed by both adults. At 2 weeks old, the young birds leave the nest and seek refuge on branches, even though they are still unable to fly.

If young birds are found on the ground, recognizable by their brown plumage, they are not abandoned, and it is futile to attempt to raise them. It is better to place them back on branches as much as possible to protect them from cats, rats, and other predators. While the female often starts another clutch, the male completes the final two weeks of raising the young birds alone.

Migration of: The blackbird

While blackbirds in parks, suburbs, and gardens remain near human habitation throughout the winter, the situation is different for breeding individuals from Northern and Eastern Europe. Between September and November, they fly southwest, fleeing the arrival of fatal snow. Many birds from Scandinavia arrive in France and Great Britain, while those from Central Europe head towards the Mediterranean. The return migration is observed in February.

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A final word

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