Blackbird (Turdus merula)

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Blackbird male perched
IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern LEAST
CONCERN

Top facts

  • The blackbird is a great generalist, able to exploit many different habitats from urban areas to moorland and woodlands.  
  • Unlike the male, the female blackbird is not in fact black, but brown with mottling on the breast.
  • Blackbirds typically remain with the same mate until one of the pair dies.
  • Some blackbird populations are migratory travelling south from the more northern parts of their range.
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Blackbird fact file

Blackbird description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyTurdidae
GenusTurdus (1)

Adult male blackbirds (Turdus merula) are, as the name suggests, totally black; they have a bright golden-yellow bill and a neat yellow ring around the eye during spring and summer (2). Towards the end of summer the bill starts to darken (2). Females are brown in colour, with dark, streaky mottling on the paler, rufous breast. Juveniles resemble females, but they have pale spots on the upperparts (2). A range of vocalisations is produced, including a loud 'pli-pli-pli' alarm call, and the fluty, melodious song (4).

Size
Length: 23.5 - 29 cm (2)
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Blackbird biology

The blackbird feeds on fruits, berries, earthworms and a large range of insects (4). Its active feeding behaviour, when leaves are thrown aside, is characteristic (7), as is its careful stalking of a lawn whilst listening with the head cocked to one side for worms (2).

The nest, a stout cup of twigs, stems, mud and dry grass (8) is built in a tree or bush mainly by the female, although the male may assist by collecting materials (4). From March between four and five bluish eggs, mottled with reddish brown are laid and incubated by the female for up to 17 days. After hatching, the young are fed by both parents and fledge after around 13 days (9).

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Blackbird range

The blackbird is very widespread throughout most of Britain, with the exception of the Scottish Highlands (5). During winter there is massive immigration of blackbirds from Scandinavia, Germany, the Baltic States, and parts of Russia and Finland (5). Certain populations of British blackbirds also have strong migratory tendencies, with many Scottish birds spending the winter in Ireland (5). The British population has been declining since the 1970s, but may now be recovering (6). The blackbird is distributed from Iberia throughout temperate Europe, to Russia, and through Turkey, northern Iran, and the Himalayas, reaching into China (4).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Blackbird habitat

Able to successfully exploit a large range of habitats, the blackbird is found from city centres to highland moors, including woodland, gardens, copses, and parks (4).

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Blackbird status

The blackbird is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1). Widespread and common species, not listed under any conservation designations (2). Included in the Birds of Conservation Concern Green List (low conservation concern) (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Blackbird threats

Agricultural intensification is thought to have played a part in the decline of the blackbird (6).

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Blackbird conservation

No conservation action has been targeted at the blackbird.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Find out more

For further information on the blackbird: 

 For more information on the blackbird and other bird species:

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Authentication

Information authenticated by the RSPB:
http://www.rspb.org.uk/

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Glossary

Incubate
To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Mullarney, K., Svensson, L., Zetterstrom, D., & Grant, P.J. (1999) Collins Bird Guide. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, London.
  3. RSPB (2003) The population status of birds in the UK:
    http://www.rspb.org.uk//Images/5_20625.pdf
  4. Gooder, J. (1982) Collins British Birds. William Collins Sons and Co Ltd, London.
  5. Lack, P. (1986) The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. D. Poyser Ltd, Calton.
  6. JNCC Breeding Birds in the Wider Countryside (Nov 2002):
    http://www.bto.org/birdtrends/wcrblabi.htm
  7. Greenoak, F. (1979) All the birds of the air; the names, lore and literature of British birds. Book Club Associates, London.
  8. Walters, M (1994) Eyewitness Handbooks: Birds Eggs. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  9. RSPB (2003): Pers. comm.
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Image credit

Blackbird male perched  
Blackbird male perched

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