Reddish Vale Country Park
The Common Blackbird, Turdus merula, is a species of true thrush.
The male blackbird is all black except for a yellow eye-ring and bill and has a rich melodious song; the adult female and juvenile have mainly dark brown plumage. Blckbirds breed in woods and gardens, building a neat, mud-lined, cup-shaped nest. They are omnivorous, eating a wide range of insects, earthworms, berries, and fruits.
Both sexes are territorial on the breeding grounds, with distinctive threat displays, but are more gregarious during migration and in wintering areas. Pairs will stay in their territory throughout the year where the climate is sufficiently temperate.
The male blackbird defends its breeding territory, chasing away other males or utilising a "bow and run" threat display. This consists of a short run, the head first being raised and then bowed with the tail dipped simultaneously. If a fight between male blackbirds does occur, it is usually short and the intruder is soon chased away. The female blackbird is also aggressive in the spring when it competes with other females for a good nesting territory, and although fights are less frequent, they tend to be more violent.
The bill’s appearance is important in the interactions of the blackbird. The territory-holding male responds more aggressively towards birds with orange bills than to those with yellow bills, and reacts least to the brown bill colour typical of the first-year male. The female is, however, relatively indifferent to bill colour, but responds instead to shinier bills.
As long as winter food is available, both the male and female will remain in the territory throughout the year, although occupying different areas. Migrants are more gregarious, travelling in small flocks and feeding in loose groups in the wintering grounds. The flight of migrating birds comprises bursts of rapid wing beats interspersed with level or diving movement, and differs from both the normal fast agile flight of this species and the more dipping action of larger thrushes.
The male blackbird attracts the female with a courtship display which consists of oblique runs combined with head-bowing movements, an open beak, and a "strangled" low song. This species is monogamous, and the established pair will usually stay together as long as they both survive. Pair separation rates of up to 20% have been noted following poor breeding.
The main predator of the Common blackbird is the domestic cat, but foxes and predatory birds, such as the Sparrowhawk and other birds of prey, also take this species when the opportunity arises. In contrast, there is little direct evidence to show that either predation of the adult blackbirds or loss of the eggs and chicks to corvids, such as magpies or Jays, have a direct impact on population numbers.
4 935,000, breeding pairs,
UK wintering, 10-15 million birds,
Diet, insects, berries and worms.