The blackbird

David Chapman

Award-winning writer and photographer, David Chapman, introduces the blackbird.

The blackbird has a varied diet which changes with the seasons.

In autumn and early winter there is a natural bounty of fruit for the blackbird to eat starting in August with rowan berries; then apples and blackberries during September and October; haws peak in October and November; holly berries in December and finally ivy berries are all that is left for January and February.

The seeds of these many berries pass through the digestive system of birds undamaged and their chance of germinating is actually improved during this process; so blackbirds serve as a dispersal mechanism for all of these trees and shrubs.

At any time of year, except during severe frosts, you may see a blackbird probing the grass for worms and grubs and they are never afraid of coming to the bird table, or even the window, for a free hand out. Of all the treats on offer at the bird table it seems that the blackbird likes sultanas best closely followed by mealworms.

Partly due to its varied feeding but also due to its large size the blackbird fares relatively well in winter, figures for the severe winter of 1962/3 show that whilst there was a 57 per cent mortality rate in other thrushes only about 18 per cent of blackbirds succumbed to the cold.

Blackbird numbers have increased by about 16 per cent in the last ten years and there are currently about four million breeding pairs in the country. Given the number of young birds born earlier in the year and the fact that many more arrive here from Scandinavia, Germany and France in the autumn it isn’t inconceivable to suggest that there might be twenty million blackbirds in the country right now.

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