Saturday, 2 February 2013

Blackbird

order : Passeriformes      Genus & Species : Turdidae     Family : Turdus merula

A garden bird loved for its rich song and lively manner, the blackbird is accustomed to people but always wary of predators, fleeing at the slightest hint of danger. Often seen flying fast and low between shrubs, with frequent changes in direction, the blackbird is also capable of high, powerful, direct flight. They found from Azores and Iceland eastward through Europe, northwestern Africa and southern Asia to China. 

Habitat : The most adaptable of British thrushes, the blackbird is found in city streets as well as windy shores of remote Scottish islands. It does, however, prefer moist, shady areas and usually stays within 200 yards of cover. Originally a bird of forests, the blackbird still inhabits all types of woodland. Since the early 19th century, however, it has spread into urban areas to become one of the most familiar species in town gardens, where lawns full of earthworms provide easy pickings. The blackbird also thrives on farmland and in other open areas, including marshes and parks, where hedgerows, thickets and bushes provide shelter. Although it is scarce in the bleaker uplands of Scotland, it occupies hilly moors, and sightings have been recorded at altitudes of up to 6,000' in mountainous regions of mainland Europe. 
Food & Feeding : Feeding mainly on the ground, the blackbird often betrays its whereabouts as it noisily forages in leaf litter, woods, hedges and gardens. It scatters leaves with its bill or scratches at them with its feet to uncover worms and insects, which are its staple food. Loved by gardeners, the blackbird also eats slugs and snails, which it snaps up after its cousin, the song thrush, has smashed their shells against a rock. The blackbird also forages in trees and shrubs for caterpillars, spiders and other invertebrates. In autumn, it eats berries as well as apples and other fruit. During harsh winters, the blackbird often survives on kitchen scraps and other food put out on bird feeders. 
Behavior : Often heard during the dawn chorus and at dusk, the male blackbird’s mellow song is at its best when he is proclaiming territory between early spring and midsummer. A young blackbird learns its basic song from its parents. But by copying neighboring blackbirds, and sometimes mimicking other species, it continues to incorporate new phrases into its repertoire throughout its life.The blackbird’s shrill, almost hysterical, rattling alarm cries are as familiar as its song. It directs the series of anxious calls at prowling cats and other predators, such as owls. Although mainly resident in Britain, the blackbird is migratory in the colder north of its range. Large numbers cross the North Sea from Scandinavia to winter in Britain and Ireland. The blackbird is not gregarious, but migrants travel in flocks and often roost in dense bushes or trees, sometimes with other species. 
Breeding : Fierce, and sometimes fatal, fights occur at the beginning of the blackbird’s mating season as rivals peck and slash each other with their bills and claws in disputes over territories. The male attracts a female to his territory with his song and courts her by ruffling his feathers and fanning his tail. Pairs usually stay together for many years. The female constructs her nest in a shrub or tree, 3–6' off the ground. But she may choose another site such as a building ledge. Using moss, grass and plant stems she forms a cup-shaped nest lined with mud. She then lays 3–5 eggs; once the chicks hatch, both parents feed them on worms and insects, especially caterpillars when available. Road traffic and predators, such as cats, kill many chicks, and few survive the three weeks it takes them to become independent. By raising more than one brood a year, the blackbird helps compensate for such losses. 

Bill : Bright orange-yellow in the male, the bill is strong and pointed for probing in the soil and pulling worms from their burrows. 
Eyes : The eye-rings are yellow in both sexes, but are more obvious in the male than the female. 
Plumage : The male’s all-black plumage is at its peak in early autumn, after his summer molt.The glossiness of fresh feathers is gradually lost through wear. 
Wings : British blackbirds have more rounded wings than those that migrate from northern Europe. 
Feet : The strong feet have sharp claws that the blackbird uses to rake the ground when searching for prey. 
Feet : The tail is often lowered and fanned during courtship.The bird cocks its tail as it lands on a perch or in warning when alarmed. 

Weight : 3–4 oz.
Length : 10"
Wingspan : 13-15"
Sexual Maturity : 1 year
Breeding Season : March–July 

The blackbird bullies smaller birds at bird feeders, but retreats when challenged by the even more aggressive European starling.