Urban Birds — the Blackbirds in your garden

Urban Birds — the Blackbirds in your garden
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Blackbirds are fantastic birds to encourage into the garden and they don’t need much encouragement. This wasn’t always the case though, pre the first world war these birds were pretty elusive and shy. It was only after the war that they took to the streets and gardens of suburbia and I’m glad they did.

The Blackbird is so highly regarded at Garden Crowd that it is the bird in our logo. The perfect stand of the blackbird tail in the air almost parallel with its striking beak. The male is the only ‘black’bird in the family and comes complete with the notorious yellow bill (beak). Females are brown, with speckled chests but both of them have fantastic song.

It is probably the Blackbird’s song that turns your head. Sitting high up above the houses or in the trees blackbirds make the most marvelous sound. If you thought Robins were going to win BirdIdol then you’re wrong.

Female Blackbird - Garden CrowdThe Blackbird now lives in most of Europe, North Africa and some of Turkey and China. They are sedentary birds, not moving far from where they were born but in the Winter months they are joined by continentals.

In most of the UK the blackbird is the most common breeding bird in the garden. Although in 2018, they dropped by 18% in the Big Garden Bird Watch.

Blackbird Breeding Seasons

Blackbirds make their nests anywhere from apple trees to a pile of rubbish behind a shed. They create a blackbird cup — probably the most famous nest — and lay around 6 eggs. Clutches usually start around February/March but nests and eggs have been found all through the year. The female incubates the eggs for two weeks and then the young fledglings for a further two weeks. After that she starts the whole process again. Whilst this is happening the males are out defending their territories and this is where you’ll see the fanning of tails and puffing of chests that blackbirds are known for.

What do Blackbirds eat?

Blackbirds are true omnivores, they have the biggest bill of all the thrushes and they will look for larger items of food in the garden. Worms are a particular love for Blackbirds, you will notice if you watch long enough in the Spring & Summer, their head cocked and listening pose before heading off to find the worm.

Blackbirds also consume a range of berries, fruits and seeds. They have a particular love of apple and elder but will also eat hawthorn, rowan, yew and holly. Lots of the autumn is spent high in the trees eating berries and consuming fruits. If you have any of these trees and bushes in your garden you will be sure to have a Blackbird visiting you.

Something we talk about a lot is the decline in natural food sources for birds. Due to weather conditions, changes in our landscape and the build up of urban areas natural food is not always readily available. Catering for your resident Blackbirds is both important in supporting them but also rather easy too. You can find a Songbird MixRobin Mix or simply put out fruits, seeds and cheese if you’d prefer.

Blackbirds and Fruit - Garden CrowdBlackbirds particularly struggle, like all thrushes, in the winter months. The ground is frozen, worms and invertebrates are not around and either is the fruit and berries. It’s really important to feed these birds in the Winter months and continue through Spring with the fledgling season.

What should I plant for Blackbirds?

Creating a bird friendly wildlife garden is something we are passionate about. You can do this fairly easily for blackbirds. Adding trees and bushes like Rowan, Hawthorn and Elder will be particularly attractive to these birds. Elder brings with it gorgeous flowers, lots of insects and then yummy fruits.

For nesting Ivy is a great choice. Allowing Ivy to spread along fences, or walls will help your Blackbirds in creating good nest sites. If you would like to give Blackbirds a headstart you could consider making nesting sites. The BTO has some great resources here on how to get started with Blackbird nests.

Big Garden Bird Watch — Blackbirds

The Blackbird did drop in 2018. It went down by 18% in the UK. The RSPB commented on the drop “We think this may be because the mild winter meant there was more food available in the countryside, meaning they didn’t need to rely on gardens for food. Also, unlike smaller birds such as goldfinches and greenfinches, blackbirds and robins didn’t have such a good breeding season.”

We know from our own gardens that last year the Blackbird struggled with the weather changes and the beast from the east. We only had one successful clutch compared to two the previous year.

That meant that the Blackbird was down one place to 4 in the top ten. It also went down in Scotland to 5 in the top 10 but in Wales the blackbird was a non-mover at 4 of out 10. It will be interesting to see the results this year (2019). For more information on how Blackbirds and other birds did in the results take a look at the RSPB results page.

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