Blackbird: Bird of the Week

This garden favourite may be behind the phrase 'the early bird catches the worm'.

Published 11 Dec 2018, 09:22 GMT, Updated 5 Nov 2020, 06:04 GMT
A blackbird, 'Turdus merula', adult male takes a drink from a garden bird bath.
A blackbird, 'Turdus merula', adult male takes a drink from a garden bird bath.
Photograph by Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)

This member of the thrush family is a popular garden visitor and one of our most abundant birds. The dapper-looking male blackbirds are easily recognisable; with coal-black plumage, yellow beak and eye ring. Whilst males live up to their names, the females are brown with paler spots and streaks on their breasts. Juveniles are similarly spotted and may be confused with song thrushes, although the speckling on the latter is more pronounced.

The female blackbird is, in fact, brown with paler spots, an effective camouflage when they are incubating eggs on a nest.
Photograph by Michael Harvey (rspb-images.com)

During the breeding season, there are about five million pairs of birds but this number increases in the winter. In colder months, anywhere up to five million more blackbirds arrive from Scandinavia and the Netherlands to escape freezing temperatures. Some of the birds remain here with others continuing on to Portugal, France and Spain.

Like all thrushes blackbirds have a varied diet; in the winter they feed on fruits and seeds and become a common visitor on the garden feeder feasting on all manner of scraps. They have been known to eat frogs, newts, snakes, small mammals and even fish – although their diet is usually made up of insects and worms.

In winter, up to five million more blackbirds arrive in the UK from Scandinavia and the Netherlands to escape freezing temperatures. They feed on fruits and seeds.
Photograph by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

The song of the male blackbird’s is likely to be the first birdsong you hear in the morning. These birds are often awake and alert before the robins, tits and finches as they have larger eyes, allowing them to see better at first light. The presence of streetlights can also fool them into thinking dawn has arrived. The phrase ‘the early bird catches the worm’ may in fact be referring to the early rising blackbird.

Learn how to attract more birds to your garden.

This is a juvenile blackbird that is yet to gain its full plumage.
Photograph by Ray Kennedy (rspb-images.com)
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