Know the difference between a female blackbird and a male? Could you identify a blackbird’s song? Here’s all the blackbird facts and figures you need to know.
Despite its simple appearance, the blackbird (Turdus merula) has spread throughout Europe, and is so famous that even The Beetles named a song after it! Blackbirds are one of our most common native bird species and have become a cultural feature. Read on to find out everything you should know about the blackbird!
- Blackbird: key facts
- How to recognise the blackbird
- How to recognise a young blackbird
- How to recognise a blackbird egg
- How to tell the difference between male and female blackbirds
- What is the perfect habitat for blackbirds?
- Where do blackbirds build their nests?
- When is breeding season for blackbirds?
- Where do blackbirds spend winter?
- What does a blackbird’s song sound like?
- Help the blackbird!
Blackbird: key facts
|Lifespan||Approximately 5 years|
|Habitat||Forests, parks and gardens|
|Food preferences||Worms, snails, insects, berries and fruits (real omnivores)|
|Threats||Decline in natural habitat and food supply, Usutu virus|
How to recognise the blackbird
The blackbird is very easy to spot. Its plumage is, you guessed it: black. Blackbirds have shining, yellow beaks and matching rings around their eyes, which brings a splash of colour to an otherwise stark appearance. An untrained eye could confuse the blackbird with a starling – they are similar in shape and colour – but with a second glance, you’ll notice that starlings have white speckles and a blue-green iridescence, quite distinct from the blackbird.
As it happens, the traditional black plumage only applies to male blackbirds. Females are slightly different, as we discuss below.
How to recognise a young blackbird
Young blackbirds are, unsurprisingly, rather plain. They have brown plumage with light spots on their back, chest and belly. Their beaks are yellow-orange with dark spots, and their parents’ distinctive eyelid rings are difficult to see.
How to recognise a blackbird egg
Blackbird eggs are rather eye-catching. About three centimetres large, blue-green in colour and speckled with brown spots, females lay three to six eggs per clutch.
How to tell the difference between male and female blackbirds
Female blackbirds look quite similar to their young. They have the same brown plumage with a lighter, dashed breast. The yellow of the beak and eyelid ring is more distinct than in young blackbirds, but not as intense as in males.
What is the perfect habitat for blackbirds?
Blackbirds traditionally live in dense forests, rich with undergrowth. With the decline of this habitat, however, you may find them in more open areas. Blackbirds have proven themselves quite adaptable and populate parks, gardens and even large cities. Above all, they need open ground or short grass where they can look for worms and insects.
Where do blackbirds build their nests?
Blackbirds are not very picky about their nest’s location. They use trees, shrubs and hedges, as well as climbers on the walls of large buildings, and flower boxes on balconies. Their nests are built from branches that are reinforced with moist earth and, on occasion, padded with feathers.
When is breeding season for blackbirds?
Blackbirds breed from March to July, raising as many as five broods. The mother incubates the eggs for about 14 days, after which the hatchlings are fed in the nest for a further two weeks. Finally, the young blackbirds leave the nest, remaining dependent on their parents for another couple of weeks, before they become independent.
Where do blackbirds spend winter?
Blackbirds are part of a family of birds whose populations split; some will migrate south for the winter, whilst the rest stays put. Migration depends on how severe winter is. While our native blackbirds are resident, in Northern Europe blackbirds tend to migrate. Some will even enter the UK.
What does a blackbird’s song sound like?
Blackbirds sing loud and clear tones. Males are usually quite exposed when they sing. So if you happen to hear a melodic blackbird song, it should be quite easy to spot the bird in a tree or on the roof of a building nearby.
Help the blackbird!
Even with blackbirds adapting to urbanisation, declining tree and insect populations mean they often lack nesting sites and food. You can help the blackbird right now in your own garden. Here, we’ll show you how.
What do blackbirds eat?
Blackbirds naturally feed on worms, snails and all kinds of insects. Earthworms are a particular favourite, freshly pulled from the earth, which is why you will often catch blackbirds on the ground, pecking for them with their beaks. They are also partial to berries, fruits and seeds, so if you would like to support the birds, especially in winter, try leaving out soft food, such as oat flakes, raisins or apples. You can buy ready-mixed packs or make your own. As a special treat, add in some mealworms.
Tip: In addition to supplying food, you can also build a bird feeder or feeding station; blackbirds aren’t picky. Read our special article for some practical tips on setting one up.
Which birdhouses are suitable for blackbirds?
Blackbirds prefer birdhouses with large openings. Protected with a roof, your birdhouse’s entrance should be about six centimetres wide.
Tip: Here, too, a little effort can be a great help for the blackbird. We’ve put together some tips and practical instructions for you to build your own bird box, if you’re not so keen on purchasing one.
How can I support blackbirds even more?
If you would like to make your garden even more bird-friendly, there are a range of plants that will support blackbirds. Furthermore, the songbird benefits from a good supply of insects.
Another useful tip: don’t rake the leaves off your lawn during winter. This will ensure that insects have protection from the cold. In turn, the blackbirds will have a sufficient supply of food through the colder months.
In combination with a feeding station, it is always a good idea to install a bird bath in the garden. Just a flat bowl will do; birds will drink and bathe there, particularly during summer. Bird baths are great for all garden birds, including the blue tit, so give them a go!