Blackbirds are often the first birds to appear in the morning. They come into the garden singly or in pairs, & they have a presence about them.
The male is a dramatic black with orange beak & eye ring; the female is more subtly coloured, speckled with browns & blacks.
They are members of the Thrush family. Their melodic song can be heard in the dawn chorus, & often through the night.
A Blackbird will swoop in & come to a sudden stop, head & tail held high, going from flight to instantaneous suspended animation, striking a pose. Perhaps in a previous life Blackbirds acted Shakespeare onstage – they have retained the stage presence.
Blackbirds trawl through leaf litter & ground cover for slugs, snails, worms, insects – any protein. They will take advantage of dried mealworms & suet nibbles sprinkled on a stack of roof tiles by the birdbath. And, as our video clip below shows, they may visit a suitable birdfeeder when mealworms & suet pellets are on offer. An empty snail shell on a tile or stone could be a clue to a Blackbird meal: the shell is held in the beak and thrashed against the ‘anvil’ to dislodge the mollusc.
Nests, eggs & chicks are guarded with a relentless, piercing alarm call… A ‘pink-pink-pink’ that can go on for 20 minutes… When you look out to see the cause of it all, there may be a cat or fox quite close to the nest, & Blackbird parents diving, flapping, & hovering over it, making that annoying noise until Pointy Ears gives up & slinks away.
Blackbirds battle other Blackbirds in springtime across a number of back gardens. The prize for the winning bird is a nesting spot in a large Elder tree – the chance to raise a family – & access to a number of gardens, including ours, in which to feed. Elderberries are much loved by other birds as well as Blackbirds – Elder trees provide food as well as shelter.
2021: The Elder tree met a sudden end in August. Its back garden appears to be getting a makeover. Several men came, chopped the Elder down & wheelbarrowed it away, along with mounds of soil & other vegetation. Any myth of an Elder Mother protecting the tree was ignored…
“Apparently once you could find elder planted all over Northern and Central Europe, and even some Stone Age dwellings in Scandinavia had elder remains. (Gardenstone:28) Apart from the plant’s usefulness (the flowers and berries are edible, and it produces dyes (it was supposed to ward off evil, and as we have seen, woe betide anyone who cut down an elder tree.”
The Elder Mother, a Mystery – Sheena McGrath, A Blog about Mythology, https://earthandstarryheaven.com/2016/03/02/elder-mother/ Mozilla Firefox
The tree’s resident Blackbird family will at least have got through this season’s nesting time… Sad, seeing your home disappear in a twinkling. But the human family whose house it is must have had its reasons. Since Lockdown, a number of neighbours have had to spend more time in their gardens.
This Blackbird appeared late in the season a few summers ago. He was small, not bolshy & statuesque but sitting alone in our small trees. We had gone through a spell of extreme heat. Could that have caused him to produce less black pigment for his feathers? We sprinkled mealworms & grated cheese where he could find them, & he came round for several months. After that, we never saw him agaiin.
‘The Blackbird has long been associated with the ‘Otherworld’. Believed to sing its loudest during the twilight period between day and night, the link is not surprising. Another time the Blackbird sings loudly is following a heavy downpour, earning it its other name of ‘Stormcock’.
Richard Meyers, Forgotten Folklore: Myths and Magic in Islington
“Among the Celts the blackbird is thought to be one of the three oldest animals in the world. The other two being the trout and the stag. They are said to represent the water, air and earth.” irishhedgerows.weebly.com/folklore.html
St Kevin and The Blackbird
“The holy Kevin, while avoiding the society of his fellow men during the season of Lent, as his custom was, devoted his time to reading and prayers, in the desert, occupying a small hut which did nothing but keep out the sun and rain, giving himself up to contemplation only. And while he was lifting his hand to heaven through the window, as he used to do, a blackbird by chance alighted on it and, treating it as a nest laid an egg there. And the Saint showed such compassion towards it, out of his patient and loving heart, that he neither closed his hand nor withdrew it, but indefatigably held it out and adapted it for the purpose until the young one was fully hatched.
And, in order to perpetuate the memory of this wonderful act, all the figures of St. Kevin, throughout Ireland, have a blackbird sitting on his open hand.”
VIDEO: BLACKBIRDS ON BEMPTON BIRDFEEDER
VIDEO: BLACKBIRD ON A NICE SPRING DAY