A common question that I have often come across is how to tell the difference between male and female blackbirds. They are both referred to as ‘Blackbirds’, so they must both be black, right? Well, the answer to this is no. The male and female are fairly distinct and in more by appearance. In this article, I will explain the differences and some other interesting facts that I have learned along the way.
As a general rule, female blackbirds appear dark brown when standing alongside the male Blackbird. The female also has some streaks on their breast, which are slightly lighter in colour. The distinctive bright yellow beak and eye-ring commonly associated with blackbirds are also less apparent, with the yellow appearing as a more muted yellow. They also differ in size with the female being slightly smaller in both length, weight and wingspan.
But aside from the distinctive visual appearance of the Blackbird, what other differences are there between male and female blackbirds? Continue reading to learn a little more!
Although not true of all bird species, the female Blackbird is generally smaller than the male with the female blackbird length, weight, and wingspan marginally smaller.
|Food||Insects, worms, berries and fruit|
Juvenile blackbirds appear of a similar size to both male and female blackbirds but are distinguishable by their ‘fluffy’ appearance. This is during the time that their feathers are still developing. Occasionally mistaken for baby thrush, Juvenille blackbirds are brown and have a more speckled appearance. Male Juvenile blackbirds do not develop their distinctive yellow eye-ring or beak until the first or even second year.
The nest of a blackbird typically takes around 2 weeks to construct. The nest forms an elegant but classic cup shape and is robust in its construction. Nests can often be found in hedges many years after they have vacated, often in very good condition such is the quality of construction.
Fact: Blackbirds are monogamous and a pair will stay together until one of them dies.
Blackbirds construct their nest from small twigs, grasses, straw and moss before laying 3-5 eggs in a clutch. The female Blackbird incubates the eggs with the male participating in feeding the young once they hatch around 14 days later. The Blackbird can raise 2-3 broods each year and may choose to re-use their previously constructed nest.
As with many of our garden birds, the lifespan of a blackbird is estimated to be 2-4 years although some ringed birds have been found to live much longer. In general, the Blackbird population throughout the U.K. is thought to be stable.
The diet of a blackbird consists mainly of worms and insects but in Autumn, the Blackbird can often be found taking advantage of fruit windfalls. However, as temperatures drop in Europe and the U.K., the ground can become frozen during the winter months, making it almost impossible to reach worms and many insects. This is when the Blackbird chooses to focus on high energy food like berries from holly bushes etc.
Blackbirds are primarily ground feeders as this is where they will find worms and insects that make up most of their diet. However, they can often be found perched atop a berry bush or holly tree. Although Blackbirds can be attracted to our feeding tables, they prefer a flat surface without any obstruction to landing or takeoff. For this reason, it’s unlikely that you will find them hanging from the side of a suet or seed feeder. Blackbirds are most certainly interested in these types of food but will prefer to hang ground beneath them for food dropped from others feeding above. Unlike the Wood Pigeon, they are unlikely to hang around very long.
Where to find them
Blackbirds are resident in the U.K. all year round but are often joined by European cousins during the winter months as temperatures drop in mainland Europe. Although some U.K. blackbirds migrate to parts of Europe, this tends to be the exception, with the majority migrating into the U.K. for winter. The RSPB estimates that there are 5,100,000 pairs in the U.K., increasing to 10-15 million birds over the winter months. Gardens play a vital part in sustaining bird populations by providing safe sanctuary and resources that birds need to breed successfully, so don’t underestimate the importance of that little patch of green sitting outside your door!
In the 2020 BTO Garden BirdWatch report, the humble Blackbird was recorded in over 80% of U.K. gardens, third only to the Blue Tit and Woodpigeon while marginally in front of the much loved Robin. These findings were a change to 2019 when Blackbirds made up 95% of occurrences in our gardens, followed by the Woodpigeon (92%), Blue Tit (86%) and Robin (85%), respectively.
The sound of a Blackbird
Blackbirds have a distinctive call that can be heard throughout the year, particularly in the summer months. It is at this time of year that Blackbirds look for a mate and sing at their loudest. Once the mating season is over, their song becomes less pronounced, and their particular song becomes considerably less frequent until the following February. During the winter months, Blackbirds can still be found singing but at a much lower level. Referred to as ‘quiet song’, you can occasionally hear a very soft song emitting from a hedge or shrub. You could be forgiven for thinking that the Blackbird may be singing quietly to themselves.
When sensing danger, Blackbirds can be heard making a familiar ‘chook, chook’ call, often followed by a long undulating screech as it takes flight.
Territory and Predators
Blackbirds are territorial to each other, and this increases dramatically during the breeding season. Having established their territory, it is believed that Blackbirds will attempt to defend it throughout their lives. Research by the BTO back in 2013 found that breeding densities could reach as many as seven pairs per hectare. However, at the end of the breeding season, Blackbirds are known to become less aggressive.
Although humans and Blackbirds tend to live alongside each other, the same cannot be said about our pets. The biggest threat to Blackbirds is the domestic cat which poses a particular danger to young birds. Fledglings and Juvenile Blackbirds are at particular risk as they attempt to follow the parent searching for worms and insects. In 2019 the BTO big garden watch survey found that 90% of participants reported Cats being spotted in gardens with mice (74%) and Grey Squirrel (73%) second and third, respectively.
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