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 Blackbird - Fact File
female (left), male
Turdus merula
Abundant resident. Some movement to and from continent in winter.
A very wide variety of habitats - almost everywhere except barren uplands. Familiar in gardens and city parks.
Black plumage and yellow bill identify adult male. First year males have more brown in plumage and brownish bill. Female is more variable, with brown plumage and mottled breast and bill brown (or orange in older birds).
24 - 25 cm (10")


An unexpected call for the plumber resulted in a speedy response. Opening his tool case he produced a set of photographs of a beautiful blackbird which had been reared in his Little Plumstead garden.

But this was no ordinary blackbird: it was pure white combined with pink legs and eyes. An unusual occurrence, in fact I only recall two occasions when I have come across completely white specimens. Being so obvious such examples no doubt have a very restricted lifespan.

Throughout the winter up to a dozen blackbirds are resident in our garden. The attraction: regular supplies of apples.

A high proportion are young birds, the males showing blackish rather than orange bills. Ever alert and sprightly, blackbirds run and hop quickly, typically advancing a few yards and then pausing.

Male Blackbird
Male Blackbird: photo © Andrew Howe

Often tame, spending long periods in open gardens, the species is really skulking in behaviour given to sudden panic and a noisy retreat into dense cover. Flight is usually low and for short distances only. Except when migrating, blackbirds are never really gregarious although considerable numbers may roost together - often among redwing - in shrubberies and dense hedgerows.

One of the latest bird-bath visitors each afternoon, "our" blackbirds do not head for the roost until dusk when a group regularly joins in a distinctive "chinking" chorus.

Blackbirds may be found in a wide range of habitats including dense woodland, coastal sand-dunes, farmland, minute marsh carrs and town and city centres.

Almost three-quarters of the blackbirds breeding in this country may be resident. But others winter in France and yet others (particularly from Scotland and northern England) head for Ireland. Their places here are occupied by migrants from Scandinavia, Denmark and Germany.

Largely nocturnal travellers, on many occasions during October I have watched blackbirds arriving just above the wavetops before taking a dramatic plummeting dive into the nearest cover. In northern Europe more females than males migrate since males are more aggressive and territorial. There is also evidence from ringing that some blackbirds migrate in one winter, but not in another.

A particularly spectacular blackbird arrival was recorded during November 5, 1961 following a north-westerly gale the previous day. Many thousands arrived on the Norfolk coast and on light-vessels and drifters offshore. Several hundred occupied floodlit trees at Cantley sugar beet factory. Hundreds descended into Yarmouth where the town park and St Nicholas churchyard and cemeteries were favoured. Many others entered the vast Halvergate triangle marshes.

By Michael J. Seago

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Copyright Information

  • Article: © Eastern Counties Newspapers Group
  • Illustrations by Dave Nurney from - The Pocket Guide to the Birds Of Britain and North-West Europe By Chris Kightley and Steve Madge © Pica Press and reproduced with kind permission.
  • Other material: © Birds Of Britain