BIRD OF THE MONTH: JUNE 2006 – BLACKBIRD

Posted by NH Admin on Thursday, 1st June 2006, 00:00


Blackbird    Turdus merula

 

Photo credit: Sannse/GFDL

 

Size

Length = 24-29cm   Wingspan = 34-38cm

Physical description

 

Male: glossy black all over, with the exception of a yellow bill and eye-ring. Like other thrushes, blackbirds have plump bodies, round heads and fairly long wings. The tail is square-edged and often raised up when the bird lands or is displaying.

 

Female: sooty-brown all over, with dark streaks on the throat and blurred, mottled spots on the breast and underside. Bill and eye-ring less bright than on male.

 

Voice

 

Call: a thin ‘tsee-tsee’; a harsh, persistent ‘chook-chook’ warning call; a loud, sharp, rattling, almost hysterical alarm call of ‘pink-pink’ or ‘chink-chink’ when taking flight to a covered, safe space.

 

Song: melodious, warbling, varied and full-throated. Blackbirds sing from a prominent perch, often near the top of a tree, or on a roof or television aerial.

 

Diet

 

Earthworms, insects, caterpillars, beetles and snails.

Fruit, especially apples and pears which have fallen to the ground.

Berries, including hawthorn and elder.

Will eat kitchen scraps scattered on or around a bird table, but very rarely seen using bird feeders.

 

Lifespan

Up to 5 years.

Habitat

 

An adaptable bird, which has moved out of its traditional woodland environment to breed in gardens, parks, orchards and farmland hedgerows. Often nests in bushes or garden trellis. Regularly feeds in gardens because they provide both open ground on which to find food and cover to fly to when alarmed.

 

Geographic range

Whole UK

Migration

 

Most of the UK’s blackbirds spend the whole year here, but a small number spend the winter in southern Europe. 

Another group of blackbirds from northern Europe and Scandinavia migrate to the UK for the winter, arriving in September/October and leaving in March/April.

 

Conservation status

Secure

Related species

 

Ring ouzel, song thrush, mistle thrush, redwing, fieldfare.

 

Where can I see this bird in Northwood / Medham?

 

Many places. Look for it feeding in the garden or in a field, or singing from its prominent perch.

 

Why is this bird worth seeing?

 

The blackbird is worth seeing because it is worth hearing. Some people believe the nightingale has the finest song of all the birds which breed or visit the UK, but this is difficult for most of us to judge. Nightingales are summer migrants which are thinly spread out and difficult to see, and much effort and some luck is needed to hear one sing. Blackbirds however are common, familiar and highly visible. The song has been described as superb, musical, relaxed, effortless and flowing. Blackbirds have a wide repertoire with many variations. The most familiar song (which is mainly heard during the breeding season from March to July) has a melodic, mellow tone, with a clear, fluting harmony. The bird does not rush and repeats the song after a short interval. The song can be heard most clearly during the dawn chorus which is at its peak in May: it is one of the first birds to start singing and the notes carry a long way in the still morning air.

 

You can also enjoy watching blackbirds feed for worms on the ground. The bird will hop or walk forward, stand very still with its head on one side looking intently for signs of movement, then move forward again. Blackbirds also explore leaf litter when foraging for food, making quite a noise as they turn over the leaves.

 

Binoculars needed?

Useful for getting a closer look.

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