Blackbird

The male Blackbird is matt black with a bright yellow bill and yellow eye ring. In fact, the yellower his bill the more the girls like him. The female Blackbird is a much duller... brown! She also has a yellow beak. The male youngsters are brown, like mum, initially, so they don't get beaten up by dad confusing them for rival males.

Blackbirds make up for being boring black by having a beautiful 'flutey' song that contains many relaxed verses, like a man casually leaning against a wall and whistling away. They are the folk singers of birds. Listen carefully and you notice that the verses begin with flutey notes but end less tunefully with a squeak or chuckle. A Blackbird can have a repertoire of over 90 or more different verses. Some verses are regional, so a Yorkshire Blackbird will have a different set of folk songs to a Rutland one. They learn more verses the older they get so you can tell how old and crusty they are from the number of folk songs they can sing. Blackbirds sing louder in cities than in the countryside so they can be heard above the traffic noise - or they are just loudmouth folkies from London. Individuals have their own favourite spot to busk, so it can be easy to get to know individuals. They like a good sing, being one of the first to start up in the dawn chorus and, like the Robin, sing throughout most of the year. In stark contrast, they have a very loud and explosive alarm call which, once you know it, you can't mistake.

Blackbirds feed under or close to cover (a big bush or hedge), turning over leaves in search of their food. They like insects, snails, worms, berries (they do purple poo in the winter from eating elder berries), and fruit such as fallen apples and pears.

The female mainly builds the nest, the male being too busy showing off his upright tail stance or else out busking. The nest is made of grass, straw, and small twigs stuck together with mud. It is lined with finer grasses. Eggs can be laid as early as February. There are up to 5 eggs which hatch after 14 days. The chicks are then fed for a further 14 days. There can be as many as three broods.

Blackbirds are found just about everywhere with over 5 million birds in the British Isles and even more arriving in winter (which is typical of folk singers). Northern Blackbirds migrate south to join the southerners for a good winter folk festival. They have the Latin name ’turdus merula’ (don't laugh), ’turdus’ means 'thrush' (not poo) and ’merula’ means 'blackbird'.

Song Thrush

The Song Thrush is the operatic tenor of the bird world. Found in gardens, parks, woods, and hedgerows - any stage where they can sing to a good audience. The Song Thrush is stocky with a relatively short tail. It is pale brown above with creamy buff under parts covered in black v-shaped spots (that look like upside down love hearts for all his adoring fans). They show an orangey underwing when flying, with their rapid and direct no nonsense flight, to get to their next concert venue as quickly as possible.

The Song Thrush has a far carrying, musical song that is rich with flutey notes. It sings in short phrases that are often repeated in threes or fives just in case you didn't get it the first time. They can have an extensive operatic repertoire of over 100 songs from Puccini to Wagner. They sing mainly during the day and also at dusk after most other birds have finished, as a good opera can go on a bit. The Song Thrush sings mostly from March to July and briefly in the autumn - for charity concerts. The Song Thrush flicks its wings when excited.

The Song Thrush feeds under trees and bushes and is seldom far from cover. Their favourite food is snails (escargot) which you would expect from such a musical prima donna. The snails are opened by banging them on a rock. They will eat other insects and especially a good juicy worm. They change the menu to more fruit in the autumn and winter when there are fewer insects around.

The female Song Thrush builds the nest in a tree or bush close to the trunk (the male is too busy signing autographs). It is made of twigs, grass, and moss and is lined with mud. She lays up to 5 eggs which hatch after 15 days. Both parents feed the young who leave the nest after 13 days. The youngsters are quickly independent and soon busy signing up for their own record label. The Song Thrush will sometimes have a second brood.

There are 1 million birds in Britain which are both migrant and resident. Many from Scotland and Northern Britain overwinter in Ireland. Some from Southern Britain go to France and Spain. The numbers of Song Thrush are, sadly, falling and they are on the 'red list'. It seems many youngsters are not getting through their first winter because of agricultural intensification and changes in hedgerow and woodland management. Their Latin name is ’turdus philomelos’ where ’turdus’ means 'thrush' and ’philomeos’ refers to a character in Greek mythology, Philomela, who had her tongue cut out, but was changed into a singing bird to make up for it.