Wildlife in Athenry – The Blackbird

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A Jaunty Songster

The blackbird is one of our most familiar and best loved garden birds. It is often regarded as uninteresting because of its familiarity. Because it is so easy to study, more is known of its lifestyle than of almost any other bird. Whatever about being too familiar and uninteresting it is still famed in song and story.

The adult male is quite literally a “black bird” with a wholly black plumage relieved only by a bright orange bill and orange eye ring. The females are much browner, with a pale throat and speckling on the breast. The breeding season is from early April to late May and sometimes earlier depending on the weather.

A clutch of three to six eggs is laid in a nest made of a layer of mud lined with grasses. The eggs are a dull blue green with reddish brown speckling. Incubation is carried out mainly by the female and lasts about a fortnight. The young birds when hatched are fed on worms and other animal food for two weeks at increasingly frequent intervals by both parents before they fledge.

This is their most vulnerable period, as they are unable to fly for about thirty-six hours after fledging. Blackbirds are mostly preyed upon by hawks, magpies, crows, rats and of course the most diligent pursuer of all our domestic cat. We are all familiar with a cat on a lawn or garden adopting a stealthy approach, just like his larger relatives we see on the television, as he attempts to outwit an alert blackbird. We are also familiar with a blackbird standing on the lawn with its head cocked to one side listening for the movement of a worm near the surface, before suddenly engaging in a tug of war with a three- or four-inch-long worm. When fully plucked from the ground, the worm is laid on the grass and then peeked at furiously, and I often wonder is it done to facilitate swallowing, or lessen the discomfort of the wriggling in the tummy.

One feature of the blackbird species is that it is prone to albinism and most of us would at sometime or another have seen a blackbird with various shades of white feathers and very occasionally, a complete white one can be seen.

The melodious fluting song of the blackbird is the one heard most often in our dawn choruses, and that can’t be bad considering the harsher notes we may be subjected to for the rest of the day.

One thing in parting you might keep in mind. When on occasion in some friendly hostelry and if slightly inebriated, if you are of mind to throw a step, ask the musician to play the “Blackbird” as I have it on good authority that it is a very simple straight forward tune and therefore the musician is less likely to go astray and you are less likely to make a complete idiot of yourself.

Yours in nature

Editor’s note: Click on the Author’s name below for more of his articles!

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About this record

Written by Tony Kilcommons

Published here 25 Oct 2022 and originally published 1998

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