Blackbird

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Blackbird
An adult male, nominate race
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Turdidae
Genus: Turdus
Species: T. merula
Binomial name
Turdus merula
Linnaeus, 1758
Approximate distribution shown in grey

The Blackbird (Turdus merula, or Common Blackbird) is a thrush. It is a member of the passerine songbird family Turdidae.

It has a huge range across Europe, Asia, and North Africa, and has been introduced to Australia and New Zealand. It has a number of subspecies across its range. Depending on latitude, the Common Blackbird may be resident, partially migratory or fully migratory.

Appearance[change | edit source]

The adult male is black, with a yellow/orange bill (beak). Juveniles and females are brown, and less easy to see. Blackbirds are easy to find in gardens all over Europe and in Asia, South of the Arctic Circle. On average, Blackbirds live to be 2.4 years old, but some have been found to be 20 years old.[2]

Behaviour and ecology[change | edit source]

Eggs in a nest
Two chicks in a nest

It is a terrific singer, and will breed whenever the weather is right.

The male Common Blackbird defends its breeding territory, chasing away other males or utilising a "bow and run" threat display. This is 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.[3]

The male attracts the female with a courtship display: oblique runs and head-bowing movements, an open beak, and a "strangled" low song. The female stays still until she raises her head and tail to permit copulation.[3] This species is monogamous, and the established pair usually stay together as long as they both survive.[3] Pair separation rates of up to 20% have been noted following poor breeding.[4] Although socially monogamous, there have been studies showing as much as 17% extra pair paternity.[5]

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.[3]

References[change | edit source]

  1. BirdLife International (2004). Turdus merula. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 2007-12-06. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
  2. Lifespan [1]
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Snow, David & Perrins, Christopher M. (eds) 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Concise edition (2 volumes), Oxford University Press, p1215–1218. ISBN 0-19-854099-X
  4. Streif, Michael & Rasa, Anne E. 2001. "Divorce and its consequences in the Common blackbird Turdus merula". Ibis 143 (4): 554–560. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.2001.tb04882.x.
  5. Garamszegia L.Z. & Møller A.P. 2004.. "Extrapair paternity and the evolution of bird song". Behavioral Ecology 15 (3): 508–519. doi:10.1093/beheco/arh041. http://beheco.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/15/3/508.