The blackbird is one of the most common UK birds and a very familiar sight in our parks and gardens. Male blackbirds have a glossy black plumage, a distinctive bright orange-yellow bill, and eye rings.
Females share this yellow bill (but it is slightly duller than males) but their plumage is dark brown in colour, often with spotted underparts.
Juvenile blackbirds have mottled ginger-brown feathers with a dark-coloured bill and can often be confused with other thrushes.
Average Length: 24-25 cm
Average Lifespan: 3 Years
Average Wingspan: 35 - 38 cm
Blackbirds are soft-billed generalists, so struggle to deal with tough seeds and grain but will eat suet, insects, worms, raisins, and other kitchen scraps. They do eat more unusual food including tadpoles, newts, and small fish. In the autumn, they will often spend much of their time eating berries and windfall fruits, which they will aggressively defend from other birds.
How to feed blackbirds: Ground feeders and bird tables
What to feed blackbirds: Peanuts, mealworms, berries, apples, raisins
Blackbirds can be found breeding in every European country, except Iceland. Some British blackbirds migrate for the winter, but most stay in the UK. One blackbird is even known to have regularly migrated from Devon in the winter months back to Norfolk for breeding season.
Blackbirds lay on average 2-3 broods a year in their cup-shaped nest with 3-4 eggs laid and hatched after 14 days. Chicks are fed by both parents and fledge approximately 14 days after hatching. Cuckoos often lay eggs inside blackbirds' nests. Luckily, blackbirds easily recognize different coloured eggs and eliminate them from their nests.
Though populations are increasing in other parts of the world, the decline in Britain is thought to be due to intensification of agricultural practices and loss of hedgerows, where they often nest. Blackbird lifespan is between 3 - 4 years, but the oldest blackbird ever recorded lived to the ripe old age of 20.
Supplementary feeding on bird tables.
Avoid using garden chemicals.
Plant shrubs or hedges in gardens that provide habitat and suitable food.
In the Middle Ages, the blackbird was known by the old English name of the Ouzel, Ousel or Wosle, which is still sometimes used in Scotland today. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare talks of the blackbird as ‘The Woosellcocke, so blacke of hew, With Orenge-tawny bill’.
Bird LifeInternational (2022) Species factsheet: Turdusmerula. Downloaded on 28/03/2022.
Opie, I., Opie, P.(1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 394–5.
Robinson, R.A. (2005) BirdFacts: profiles of birds occurring in Britain & Ireland. BTO, Thetford accessed on 28 March 2022)
Shakespeare, W.1564-1616. (1998). A midsummer night's dream. New York: Signet Classic.
Snow, D.W. (1958). The breeding of the Blackbird Turdusmerula at Oxford. Ibis. 100 (1):1–30.
Woodward, I.,Aebischer, N., Burnell,D., Eaton, M., Frost, T., Hall, C., Stroud, D. &Noble, D. (2020) Population estimates of birds in Great Britain and the United Kingdom. British Birds. 113: 69–104.