Blackbird


Blackbird

Taxobox
name = Blackbird
status = LC
status_ref =IUCN2006|assessors=BirdLife International|year=2004|id=51596|title=Turdus merula|downloaded=2007-12-06 Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern]



status_system = iucn3.1
image_width = 250px
image_caption = An adult male, nominate race
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Aves
ordo = Passeriformes
familia = Turdidae
genus = "Turdus"
species = "T. merula"
binomial = "Turdus merula"
binomial_authority = Linnaeus, 1758
range_

range_map_width = 250px
range_map_caption =Approximate distribution shown in grey
The Blackbird, Common Blackbird or Eurasian Blackbird ("Turdus merula") is a species of true thrush which breeds in Europe, Asia, and North Africa, and has been introduced to Australia and New Zealand. It has a number of subspecies across its large range; a few of the Asian subspecies are sometimes considered as full species. Depending on latitude, the Blackbird may be resident, partially migratory or fully migratory.

The male of the nominate subspecies, which is found throughout most of Europe, is all black except for a yellow eye-ring and bill and has a wide range of vocalisations; the adult female and juvenile have mainly brown plumage. This species breeds in woods and gardens, building a neat, mud-lined, cup-shaped nest. It is omnivorous, eating a wide range of insects, earthworms, berries, and fruits.

Both sexes are territorial on the breeding grounds, with distinctive threat displays, but are more gregarious during migration and in wintering areas. Pairs will stay in their territory throughout the year where the climate is sufficiently temperate. This common species has given rise to a number of literary and cultural references, frequently related to its melodious song.

Taxonomy and name

The Blackbird was described by Linnaeus in his "Systema Naturae" in 1758 as "Turdus merula" (characterised as "T. ater, rostro palpebrisque fulvis"). [la icon cite book | last=Linnaeus | first=Carolus | authorlink=Carolus Linnaeus | title=Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata. | publisher=Holmiae. (Laurentii Salvii). | date=1758| pages=p. 170] The binomial name derives from two Latin words, "turdus", "thrush", and "merula", "blackbird", the latter giving rise to the French name for this species, "merle" [fr icon cite book |title= Le Grand Robert de la langue française |last= Le Robert |first= Paul |coauthors= |publisher= Dictionnaires Le Robert |year=2001 |id=ISBN 2850366730] and also the Romanian name, "mierlă". There are about 65 species of medium to large thrushes in the genus "Turdus", characterised by rounded heads, longish pointed wings, and usually melodious songs. The Blackbird seems to be closest in evolutionary terms to the Island Thrush ("T. poliocephalus") of Southeast Asia and islands in the southwest Pacific, which probably diverged from "merula" stock fairly recently.

It may not immediately be clear why the name "Blackbird", first recorded in 1486, was applied to this species, but not to one of the various other common black British birds, such as the Carrion Crow, Raven, Rook or Jackdaw. However, in Old English, and in modern English up to about the 18th century, "bird" was used only for smaller or young birds, and larger ones such as crows were called "fowl". At that time, the Blackbird was therefore the only widespread and conspicuous "black bird" in the British Isles."Oxford English Dictionary" 1933: Bird (sense 2), Blackbird] Until about the 17th century, another usual name for the species was "ouzel", "ousel" or "wosel" (from Old English "osle"). Another variant occurs in Act 3 of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream", where Bottom refers to "The Woosell cocke, so blacke of hew, With Orenge-tawny bill". The ouzel usage survived later in poetry, and still occurs as the name of the closely related Ring Ouzel ("Turdus torquatus"), and in "Water Ouzel", an alternative name for the unrelated but superficially similar White-throated Dipper ("Cinclus cinclus").cite book | last = Lockwood| first =W. B. | coauthors= |title = Oxford Book of British Bird Names| year = 1984| publisher = Oxford University Press|location= Oxford| isbn = 0192141554]

Two related Asian "Turdus" thrushes, the White-collared Blackbird ("T. albocinctus") and the Grey-winged Blackbird ("T. boulboul"), are also named blackbirds, and the Somali Thrush ("T. (olivaceus) ludoviciae") is alternatively known as the Somali Blackbird.Sinclair, I., & P. Ryan (2003). "Birds of Africa south of the Sahara." Struik Publishers, Cape Town. ISBN 1868728579]

The icterid family of the New World is sometimes called the blackbird family because of some species' superficial resemblance to the Old World thrushes, especially this species, but they are not evolutionarily close, being closer to the New World warblers and tanagers.cite book |title=New World Blackbirds: The Icterids (Helm Identification Guides) |last= Jaramillo |first=Alvaro |coauthors=Burke, Peter |publisher=Christopher Helm Publishers Ltd|year=1997 |id= ISBN 0-7136-4333-1] The term is often limited to smaller species with mostly or entirely black plumage, at least in the breeding male, notably the cowbirds, [cite web | title = All About Birds: Bronzed Cowbird | year = 2003 | publisher = Cornell Lab of Ornithology | url = http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Bronzed_Cowbird_dtl.html | accessdate = 2008-02-18] the grackles, [cite web | title = All About Birds: Great-tailed Grackle | year = 2003 | publisher = Cornell Lab of Ornithology | url = http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Great-tailed_Grackle.html | accessdate = 2008-02-18] and especially around 20 species with "blackbird" in the name, such as the Red-winged Blackbird and the Melodious Blackbird.

Description

The Blackbird of the nominate subspecies "T. m. merula" is 23.5 to 29 centimetres (9.25 to 11.4 in) in length, has a long tail, and weighs 80–125 grammes (2.8 to 4.4 oz). The adult male has glossy black plumage, blackish-brown legs, a yellow eye-ring and an orange-yellow bill. The bill darkens somewhat in winter. The adult female is sooty-brown with a dull yellowish-brownish bill, a brownish-white throat and some weak mottling on the breast. The juvenile is similar to the female, but has pale spots on the upperparts, and the very young juvenile also has a speckled breast. Young birds vary in the shade of brown, with darker birds presumably males. The first year male resembles the adult male, but has a dark bill and weaker eye ring, and its folded wing is brown, rather than black like the body plumage.

ubspecies

As would be expected for a widespread passerine bird species, several geographical subspecies are recognised. The treatment of subspecies in this article follows Clement "et al" (2000).
*"T. m. merula", the nominate subspecies, breeds commonly throughout much of Europe from Iceland, the Faeroes and the British Isles east to the Ural Mountains and north to about 70 N, where it is fairly scarce. A small population breeds in the Nile valley. Birds from the north of the range winter throughout Europe and around the Mediterranean including Cyprus and North Africa. The introduced birds in Australia and New Zealand are of the nominate race.
*"T. m. azorensis" is a small race which breeds in the Azores. The male is darker and glossier than "merula".
*"T. m. cabrerae", named for Ángel Cabrera, Spanish zoologist, resembles "azorensis" and breeds in Madeira and the western Canary Islands.
*"T. m. mauretanicus", another small dark species with a glossy black male plumage, breeds in central and northern Morocco, coastal Algeria and northern Tunisia.
*"T m. aterrimus" breeds in Hungary, south and east to southern Greece, Crete northern Turkey and northern Iran. It winters in southern Turkey, northern Egypt, Iraq and southern Iran. It is smaller than "merula" with a duller male and paler female plumage.
*"T. m. syriacus" breeds on the Mediterranean coast of southern Turkey south to Jordan, Israel and the northern Sinai. It is mostly resident, but part of the population moves south west or west to winter in the Jordan Valley and in the Nile Delta of northern Egypt south to about Cairo. Both sexes of this subspecies are darker and greyer than the equivalent "merula" plumages.
*"T. m. intermedius" is an Asiatic race breeding from Central Russia to Tajikistan, western and north east Afghanistan, and eastern China. Many birds are resident but some are altitudinal migrants and occur in southern Afghanistan and southern Iraq in winter. This is a large subspecies, with a sooty-black male and a blackish-brown female.
*"T. m. maximus" is a large montane subspecies found from eastern Afghanistan east through the Himalayas between 3200 and 4800 metres (10,560–16,000 ft) to Sikkim, Assam, southern Tibet and western Szechwan, China. It is an altitudinal migrant, and in winter occurs down to 2100 metres (6930 ft) in south east Tibet, but not below 3000 metres (9900 ft) further west. The male is black and the female very dark brown. It is the only subspecies without a yellow or orange eye-ring.
*"T. m. mandarinus" breeds throughout much of south, central and east China.MacKinnon, J., & Phillipps, K. (2000). "A Field Guide to the Birds of China." Oxford University Press. Oxford. ISBN 0198549407] It is a partial migrant to Hong Kong and south to Laos and Vietnam. The male is sooty black, and the female is similar but browner, and paler on the underparts.cite book | last = Robson | first = Craig | coauthors= |title = A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand | year = 2004 | publisher = New Holland Press | isbn = 1843309211 p228] It is a large subspecies.
*"T. m. sowerbyi", named for James Sowerby, British naturalist and illustrator, breeds from east Szechwan to Guizhou. It is partially migratory, with some individuals spending the winter in south China and north Indochina. It resembles "mandarinus", but is smaller and darker below.
*"T. m. nigropileus" is resident up to about 1820 metres (6000 ft) in the Western Ghats of western India and the northern and central parts of the Western Ghats. The male is brownish slate-grey with a dark cap, and the female is mid-brown, paler below. It is small with a relatively broad yellow eye-ring.
*"T. m. spencei", named for William Spence, British entomologist, is very similar to "nigropileus", but has a less distinct cap. It is resident in the highlands of eastern India. It is of dubious validity, and is often included in "nigropileus".
*"T. m. simillimus" is a common resident of the hills in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, south west India. It is darker than "spencei".
*"T. m. bourdilloni", named for Thomas Fulton Bourdillon, Conservator of Forests in the then princely state of Travancore, is a common resident of the hills above 900 metres (3000 ft) in southern Kerala and Tamil Nadu. It resembles "simillimus", but the male is uniform slate brown.
*"T. m. kinnisii", named for John Kinnis, surgeon to the British military forces in what was then Ceylon, breeds in the hills of Sri Lanka above 900 metres (3000 ft). The male is uniformly blue-grey, and the female is similar but browner. Size as in "nigropileus", but eye-ring more reddish-orange.

The taxonomy, especially of the Asian subspecies, is complex. The subspecies from most of the Indian subcontinent, "simillimus", "nigropileus", "bourdilloni", "spencei", and "kinnissi", are small, only 19–20 centimetres (7.5–8 in) long, and have broad eye-rings. They also differ in proportions, wing formula, egg colour and voice from the other subspecies of the Blackbird. They are therefore sometimes considered a separate species, the Indian Blackbird ("T. simillimus").Collar, N. J. (2005). Indian Blackbird ("Turdus simillimus"). Pp. 646 in: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., & Christie, D. A. eds. (2005) "Handbook of the Birds of the World." Vol. 10. Cuckoo-shrikes to Thrushes. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. ISBN 84-87334-72-5] Rasmussen, P. C., & J. C. Anderton (2005). "Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide." Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. ISBN 8487334679] The Himalayan subspecies "maximus" is strikingly different from the "simillimus" group, being relatively large at 23–28 centimetres (9–11 in) length. It differs from all other subspecies of the Blackbird by its complete lack of eye-ring and reduced song. It is therefore sometimes considered a full species, the Tibetan Blackbird ("T. maximus").Collar, N. J. (2005). Tibetan Blackbird ("Turdus maximus"). Pp. 646 in: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., & Christie, D. A. eds. (2005) "Handbook of the Birds of the World." Vol. 10. Cuckoo-shrikes to Thrushes. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. ISBN 84-87334-72-5] The remaining Asian subspecies, the relatively large "intermedius" and "mandarinus", and the smaller "sowerbyi", also differ in structure and voice, and may represent a third species, the Chinese Blackbird ("T. mandarinus").Collar, N. J. (2005). Common Blackbird ("Turdus merula"). Pp. 645 in: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., & Christie, D. A. eds. (2005) "Handbook of the Birds of the World." Vol. 10. Cuckoo-shrikes to Thrushes. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. ISBN 84-87334-72-5] Alternatively, it has been suggested that they should be considered subspecies of "T. maximus", but they differ in structure, voice and the appearance of the eye-ring.

imilar species

In Europe, the Blackbird can be confused with the paler-winged first-winter Ring Ouzel ("Turdus torquatus") or the superficially similar European Starling ("Sturnus vulgaris").Mullarney, Killian; Svensson, Lars, Zetterstrom, Dan; Grant, Peter. (2001). "Birds of Europe." Princeton University Press. p 304–306 ISBN 0691050546] The Sri Lankan subspecies, "T. m. kinsii", resembles the Sri Lanka Whistling-thrush ("Myophonus blighi") and the out-of-range Tickell's Thrush ("Turdus unicolor"). However, the former species always has blue in the plumage, and the latter has a pale belly.cite book | last = Grimmett | first = Richard |coauthors= Inskipp, Carol; Inskipp, Tim| title = Pocket Guide to Birds of the Indian Subcontinent | publisher = Christopher Helm Publishers Ltd |date = 2002| location = London | isbn = 0713663049 p222–228] A number of similar "Turdus" thrushes exist far outside the range of the Blackbird, for example the South American Chiguanco Thrush ("Turdus chiguanco").Fjeldså, J., & N. Krabbe (1990). "The Birds of the High Andes." Zoological Museum, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen. ISBN 87-88757-16-1]

Distribution and habitat

The Blackbird breeds in temperate Eurasia, North Africa, the Canary Islands, and South Asia. It has been introduced to Australia and New Zealand. Populations are sedentary in the south and west of the range, although northern birds migrate south as far as northern Africa and tropical Asia in winter.cite book |title=Thrushes (Helm Identification Guides) |last= Clement |first= Peter |coauthors= Hathway, Ren; Wilczur, Jan |publisher=Christopher Helm Publishers Ltd|year=2000 |id= ISBN 0-7136-3940-7] Urban males are more likely to overwinter in cooler climes than rural males, an adaptation made feasible by the warmer microclimate and relatively abundant food that allow the birds to establish territories and start reproducing earlier in the year. [Partecke, J. & E. Gwinner. (2007) "Increased sedentariness in European blackbirds following urbanization: a consequence of local adaptation?" "Ecology" 88(4): 882–90.]

Common over most of its range in woodland, the Blackbird has a preference for deciduous trees with dense undergrowth. However, gardens provide the best breeding habitat with up to 7.3 pairs per hectare (nearly three pairs per acre), with woodland typically holding about a tenth of that density, and open and very built-up habitats even less.cite book |title=A Study of Blackbirds |last= Snow |first= David |coauthors= |publisher= British Museum (Natural History) |year=1988 |id= ISBN 0-7136-3940-7] They are often replaced by the related Ring Ouzel in areas of higher altitude.cite book |title=The Observer's Book of Birds' Eggs|author=Evans G|pages=p. 78|year=1972 |publisher=Warne |location=London |isbn=0-7232-0060-2]

The Blackbird occurs up to 1000 metres (3300 ft) in Europe, 2300 metres (7590 ft) in North Africa, and at 900–820 metres (3000–6000 ft) in peninsular India and Sri Lanka, but the large Himalayan subspecies range much higher, with "T. m. maximus" breeding at 3200–4800 metres (10560–16000 ft) and remaining above 2100 metres (6930 ft) even in winter.

This widespread species has occurred as a vagrant in many locations in Eurasia outside its normal range, but records from North America are normally considered to involve escapees, including, for example, the 1971 bird in Quebec.cite journal|last=McNeil |first=Raymond |coauthors= Cyr, André |month=October |year=1971 |title= [http://elibrary.unm.edu/sora/Auk/v088n04/p0919-p0920.pdf General Notes: European Blackbird ("Turdus merula") in Quebec] |journal= The Auk |volume=88 |issue= 4|pages= 919–920] However, a 1994 record from Bonavista, Newfoundland has been accepted as a genuine wild bird, and the species is therefore on the North American list.cite web|title= The A.O.U. Check-list of North American Birds, Seventh Edition |work= Check-list of North American Birds |url= http://www.aou.org/checklist/index.php3 |publisher= AOU|accessdate=2007-12-14]

tatus

The Blackbird has an extensive range, estimated at 10 million square kilometres (3.8 million square miles), and a large population, including an estimated 79 to 160 million individuals in Europe alone. The species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e., declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations), and is therefore evaluated as Least Concern. In the western Palaearctic, populations are generally stable or increasing,cite book | last = Snow | first = David |coauthors= Perrins, Christopher M (editors)| title = The Birds of the Western Palearctic concise edition (2 volumes) | publisher = Oxford University Press |year = 1998| location =Oxford | isbn = 0-19-854099-X p1215–1218] but there have been local declines, especially on farmland, which may be due to agricultural policies that encouraged farmers to remove hedgerows (which provide nesting places), and to drain damp grassland and increase the use of pesticides, both of which could have reduced the availability of invertebrate food.cite web|title= Threats|work=Blackbird |url= http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/b/blackbird/threats_dangers_and_survival.asp |publisher=Royal Society for the Protection of Birds |accessdate=2007-12-19]

The Blackbird was introduced to Australia at Melbourne in the 1850s, but has expanded from its initial foothold in Melbourne and Adelaide to occur throughout south-eastern Australia, including Tasmania and the Bass Strait islands.cite web|title= Common Blackbird |work= Birds in Backyards |url= http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/finder/display.cfm?id=123|publisher= Australian Museum |accessdate=2007-12-30] The introduced population in Australia is considered a pest because it damages a variety of soft fruits in orchards, parks and gardens including berries, cherries, stone fruit and grapes. It is thought to spread weeds, such as blackberry, and may compete with native birds for food and nesting sites.cite web|title= Blackbird |work= Farmnote 60/2001, reviewed 2005 |url= http://www.agric.wa.gov.au/content/pw/vp/bird/f06001.pdf |publisher= Department of Agriculture, Western Australia |accessdate=2007-12-11]

The introduced Blackbird is, together with the native Silvereye ("Zosterops lateralis"), the most widely distributed avian seed disperser in New Zealand. Introduced there along with the Song Thrush ("Turdus philomelos") in 1862, it has spread throughout the country up to an elevation of convert|1500|m|ft|0, as well as outlying islands such as the Campbell and Kermadecs.Falla, R. A., R. B. Sibson, and E. G. Turbott (1979). "The new guide to the birds of New Zealand and outlying islands". Collins, Auckland. ISBN 0002169282] It eats a wide range of native and exotic fruit, and makes a major contribution to the development of communities of naturalised woody weeds. These communities provide fruit more suited to non-endemic native birds and naturalised birds, than to endemic birds.cite journal|last= Williams |first= Peter A |coauthors= |month= |year= 2006|title= [http://www.newzealandecology.org/nzje/new_issues/NZJEcol30_2_285.pdf The role of blackbirds ("Turdus merula") in weed invasion in New Zealand] |journal= New Zealand Journal of Ecology |volume=30 |issue= 2|pages=285–291 ]

Behaviour

The male Blackbird defends its breeding territory, chasing away other males or utilising a "bow and run" threat display. This consists of a short run, the head first being raised and then bowed with the tail dipped simultaneously. If a fight between male Blackbirds does occur, it is usually short and the intruder is soon chased away. The female Blackbird is also aggressive in the spring when it competes with other females for a good nesting territory, and although fights are less frequent, they tend to be more violent.

The bill’s appearance is important in the interactions of the Blackbird. The territory-holding male responds more aggressively towards models with orange bills than to those with yellow bills, and reacts least to the brown bill colour typical of the first-year male. The female is, however, relatively indifferent to bill colour, but responds instead to shinier bills.cite journal|last= Bright |first= Ashleigh. |coauthors= Waas, Joseph R.|month=August |year=2002 |title= [http://cber.bio.waikato.ac.nz/images/bbposter2.pdf Effects of bill pigmentation and UV reflectance during territory establishment in blackbirds ] |journal= Animal Behaviour |volume=64 |issue= 2|pages=207–213|doi=10.1006/anbe.2002.3042]

As long as winter food is available, both the male and female will remain in the territory throughout the year, although occupying different areas. Migrants are more gregarious, travelling in small flocks and feeding in loose groups in the wintering grounds. The flight of migrating birds comprises bursts of rapid wing beats interspersed with level or diving movement, and differs from both the normal fast agile flight of this species and the more dipping action of larger thrushes.

Breeding

The male Blackbird attracts the female with a courtship display which consists of oblique runs combined with head-bowing movements, an open beak, and a "strangled" low song. The female remains motionless until she raises her head and tail to permit copulation. This species is monogamous, and the established pair will usually stay together as long as they both survive. Pair separation rates of up to 20% have been noted following poor breeding. [cite journal|journal=Ibis|volume=143|issue=4|pages=554–560|last=Streif|first=Michael|coauthors=Rasa O. Anne E.|year=2001|title=Divorce and its consequences in the Common blackbird "Turdus merula".|doi=10.1111/j.1474-919X.2001.tb04882.x] Although socially monogamous, there have been studies showing as much as 17% extra pair paternity. [cite journal|journal=Behavioral Ecology|volume=15|issue=3|pages=508–519|year=2004|title=Extrapair paternity and the evolution of bird song|first=László Zsolt|last=Garamszegia|coauthors=Anders Pape Møller|url=http://beheco.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/15/3/508|doi=10.1093/beheco/arh041]

Nominate "T. merula" may commence breeding in March, but eastern and Indian races are a month or more later, and the introduced New Zealand birds start nesting in August. The breeding pair prospect for a suitable nest site in a creeper or bush, favouring evergreen or thorny species such as ivy, holly, hawthorn, honeysuckle or pyracantha, and the female builds a neat cup-shaped nest from grasses and similar vegetation, which she then lines with mud or muddy leaves. She lays three to five (usually four) bluish-green eggs marked with reddish-brown blotches, heaviest at the larger end; the eggs of nominate "T. merula" are 2.9 x 2.1 centimetres (1.14 x 0.93 in) in size and weigh 7.2 grammes (0.25 oz), of which 6% is shell.cite web|title= Blackbird "Turdus merula" [Linnaeus, 1758] |work= BTO"Web" BirdFacts|url= http://blx1.bto.org/birdfacts/results/bob11870.htm |publisher=British Trust for Ornithology |accessdate=2007-12-30] Eggs of birds of the southern Indian races are paler than those from the northern subcontinent and Europe. The female incubates for 12–14 days before the altricial chicks are hatched naked and blind. Fledging takes another 10–19 (average 13.6) days, with both parents feeding the young and removing faecal sacs. The young are fed by the parents for up to three weeks after leaving the nest, and will follow the adults begging for food. If the female starts another nest, the male alone will feed the fledged young. Second broods are common, with the female reusing the same nest if the brood was successful, and three broods may be raised in the south of the Blackbird's range.

Montane subspecies, such as "T. maximus" have a shorter breeding season, smaller clutches (2–4 eggs, averaging 2.86), but larger eggs than "merula". They produce just one brood per year, and have a slightly shorter incubation period of 12–13 days, but a longer nestling period (16–18 days).cite journal|last= Xin Lu |first= |coauthors= |month= January |year= 2005|title= Reproductive ecology of blackbirds ("Turdus merula maximus") in a high-altitude location, Tibet |journal= Journal of Ornithology|volume=146 |issue=1 |pages= 72–78| doi=10.1007/s10336-004-0058-1]

A Blackbird has an average life expectancy of 2.4 years, [cite web |url=http://www.garden-birds.co.uk/information/lifespan.htm |title= British garden birds - lifespan |accessdate=2007-04-07 |year= |month= |publisher=garden-birds.co.uk] and, based on data from bird ringing, the oldest recorded age is 21 years and 10 months. [cite web |url=http://www.euring.org/data_and_codes/longevity-voous.htm |title= European Longevity Records |accessdate=2007-12-15 |year= |month= |publisher=euring.org]

ongs and calls

The first-year male Blackbird of the nominate race may start singing as early as late January in fine weather in order to establish a territory, followed in late March by the adult male. The male's song is a varied and melodious low-pitched fluted warble, given from trees, rooftops or other elevated perches mainly in the period from March to June, sometimes into the beginning of July. It has a number of other calls, including an aggressive "seee", a "pook-pook-pook" alarm for terrestrial predators like cats, and various "chink" and "chook, chook" vocalisations. The territorial male invariably gives "chink-chink" calls in the evening in an (usually unsuccessful) attempt to deter other Blackbirds from roosting in its territory overnight. Like other passerine birds, it has a thin high "seee" alarm call for threats from birds of prey since the sound is rapidly attenuated in vegetation, making the source difficult to locate.cite book | last = Burton| first = Robert| coauthors= |title = Bird behaviour| year = 1985|location= London| publisher = Granada | page = p125|isbn = 0-24-612440-7]

At least two subspecies, "T. m. merula" and "T. m. nigropileus", will mimic other species of birds, cats, humans or alarms, but this is usually quiet and hard to detect. The large mountain races, especially "T. m. maximus", have comparatively poor songs, with a limited repertoire compared with the western, peninsular Indian and Sri Lankan taxa.

Feeding

The Blackbird is omnivorous, eating a wide range of insects, earthworms, seeds and berries. It feeds mainly on the ground, running and hopping with a start-stop-start progress. It pulls earthworms from the soil, usually finding them by sight, but sometimes by hearing, and roots through leaf litter for other invertebrates. Small vertebrates such as frogs, tadpoles and lizards are occasionally hunted. This species will also perch in bushes to take berries and collect caterpillars and other active insects. Animal prey predominates, and is particularly important during the breeding season, with windfall apples and berries taken more in the autumn and winter. The nature of the fruit taken depends on what is locally available, and frequently includes exotics in gardens. In northern India, banyan and mulberry fruits are frequently eaten, with "Erythrina" and "Trema" species featuring further south.

Natural threats

The main predator of the Blackbird is the domestic cat, but foxes and predatory birds, such as the Sparrowhawk and other accipiters, also take this species when the opportunity arises.cite web|title= Blackbird Action Plan |work= |url= http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/A862EBE6-4CD7-4317-9B64-D0FB565AAF1C/0/BAPSummaryBlackbird.pdf |publisher= Lambeth Council’s Parks and Greenspaces Business Unit |accessdate=2007-12-11] In contrast, there is little direct evidence to show that either predation of the adult Blackbirds or loss of the eggs and chicks to corvids, such as the European Magpie or Eurasian Jay, have a direct impact on population numbers.cite web|title = Blackbird - "Turdus merula" |work= Plantpress |url= http://www.plantpress.com/wildlife/o30-blackbird.php |publisher= Natural England |accessdate=2007-12-11]

This species is occasionally a host of parasitic cuckoos, such as the Common Cuckoo ("Cuculus canorus"), but this is minimal because the Blackbird recognizes the adult of the parasitic species and its non-mimetic eggs.cite journal |last= Davies |first= N. B. |month=March |year=2002 |title= Cuckoo tricks with eggs and chicks |journal= British Birds |volume=95 |issue= 3|pages=101–115 ] The introduced "merula" Blackbird in New Zealand, where the cuckoo does not occur, has, over the past 130 years, lost the ability to recognize the adult Common Cuckoo but still rejects non-mimetic eggs.cite journal |last= Hale |first= Katrina |coauthors= Briskie, James V.|month=March |year=2007 |title= [http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.0908-8857.2007.03734.x Response of introduced European birds in New Zealand to experimental brood parasitism] |journal= Journal of Avian Biology |volume=38 |issue= 2|pages=198–204 | doi =10.1111/j.0908-8857.2007.03734.x ]

As with other passerine birds, parasites are common. 88% of blackbirds were found to have intestinal parasites, most frequently "Isospora" and "Capillaria" species. [ Misof, Katharina (2005) " [http://deposit.ddb.de/cgi-bin/dokserv?idn=978109996&dok_var=d1&dok_ext=pdf&filename=978109996.pdf Eurasian Blackbirds (Turdus merula) and their gastrointestinal parasites: A role for parasites in life-history decisions?] " "Doctoral dissertation", Bonn, August 2005] and more than 80% had haematozoan parasites. [ Hatchwell, B. J.; Wood; Anwar, M. J. M.; Perrins C. M. (2000) " [http://rparticle.web-p.cisti.nrc.ca/rparticle/AbstractTemplateServlet?journal=cjz&volume=78&year=&issue=&msno=z99-228&calyLang=fra The prevalence and ecology of the haematozoan parasites of European blackbirds, Turdus merula] " "Canadian. Journal of Zoology". 78(4): 684–687 (2000) | doi:10.1139/cjz-78-4-684] Blackbirds spend much of their time looking for food on the ground where they can become infested with ticks, which are external parasites that most commonly attach to the head of a Blackbird. In France, 74% of rural Blackbirds were found to be infested with "Ixodes" ticks, whereas, only 2% of Blackbirds living in urban habitats were infested. This is partly because it is more difficult for ticks to find another host on lawns and gardens in urban areas than in uncultivated rural areas, and partly because ticks are likely to be commoner in rural areas, where a variety of tick hosts, such as foxes, deer and boar, are more numerous. Although, ixodid ticks can transmit pathogenic viruses and bacteria, and are known to transmit Borrelia bacteria to birds,cite journal|last= Kipp|first= Susanne |coauthors= Goedecke, Andreas; Dorn, Wolfram; Wilske, Bettina; VolkeFingerle |month= May |year= 2006|title=Role of birds in Thuringia, Germany, in the natural cycle of "Borrelia burgdorferi" sensu lato, the Lyme disease spirochaete |journal= International Journal of Medical Microbiology|volume= 296|issue= |pages= 125–128 |doi=10.1016/j.ijmm.2006.01.001 ] there is no evidence that this affects the fitness of Blackbirds except when they are exhausted and rundown after migration.cite journal|last= Gregoire|first= Arnaud |coauthors= Faivre, Bruno; Heeb, Philipp; Cezilly, Frank |month= |year=2002 |title= [http://www.cefe.cnrs.fr/esp/publis/AG/AGGregoire%20et%20al%202002%20Ibis.pdf A comparison of infestation patterns by "Ixodes "ticks in urban and rural populations of the Common Blackbird "Turdus merula"] |journal= Ibis |volume=144 |issue= |pages=640–645 |doi= 10.1046/j.1474-919X.2002.00102.x ]

In culture

The Blackbird was seen as a sacred though destructive bird in Classical Greek folklore, and was said to die if it consumed pomegranate.cite book |last=Cooper |first=J.C. |title=Symbolic and Mythological Animals |pages=pp. 38 |year=1992 |publisher= Aquarian Press |location=London |isbn=1-85538-118-4] Like many other small birds, it has in the past been trapped in rural areas at its night roosts as an easily available addition to the diet, and in medieval times the conceit of placing live birds under a pie crust just before serving may have been the origin of the familiar nursery rhyme:cite book | last = Cocker | first = Mark | coauthors= Mabey, Richard |title = Birds Britannica | year = 2005 |location=London | publisher = Chatto & Windus | isbn = 0-7011-6907-9 p349-353]

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye;
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie!
When the pie was opened the birds began to sing,
Oh wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king?cite web|title= "Sing a Song of Sixpence" |work= Nursery Rhymes Lyrics and Origins |url= http://www.rhymes.org.uk/sing_a_song_of_sixpence.htm
publisher= rhymes.org.uk|accessdate=2007-12-07
]

The Blackbird's melodious, distinctive song is the theme of the poem "Adelstrop" by Edward Thomas;

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.cite web|title= "Adelstrop" |work= |url= http://www.poetsgraves.co.uk/Classic%20Poems/Thomas%20E/adlestrop.htm
publisher= Poets' Graves |accessdate=2007-12-07
]
The song is also recalled in the Beatles track "Blackbird":
Blackbird singing in the dead of night,
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life,
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.cite web|title= "Blackbird"|work= |url= http://www.lyricsfreak.com/p/paul+mccartney/blackbird_20105542.html |publisher= Lyricsfreak |accessdate=2007-12-07]

The Blackbird, unlike many black creatures, is not normally seen as a symbol of bad luck, but R. S. Thomas wrote that there is "a suggestion of dark Places about it",cite web|title= "A Blackbird Singing" |work= |url= http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/a-blackbird-singing/ |publisher= Poemhunter |accessdate=2007-12-07] and it symbolised resignation in the 17th century tragic play "The Duchess of Malfi";cite book |last=de Vries |first=Ad |title=Dictionary of Symbols and Imagery |year=1976 |pages=p. 51|publisher=North-Holland Publishing Company |location=Amsterdam |isbn=0-7204-8021-3] an alternate connotation is vigilance, the bird's clear cry warning of danger.

The Blackbird is the national bird of Sweden,cite web|title= Background - Sweden |work= |url= http://www.nationmaster.com/country/sw-sweden/bac-background |publisher= Nationmaster |accessdate=2007-12-12] which has a breeding population of 1–2 million pairs, and was featured on a 30 öre Christmas postage stamp in 1970.cite web|title= Bird stamps from Sweden |work= Theme Birds on Stamps |url= http://www.birdtheme.org/country/sweden.html |publisher= Kjell Scharning |accessdate=2007-12-13]

References

External links

pecies information

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* [http://www.ibercajalav.net/img/344_BlackbirdTmerula.pdf Ageing and sexing (PDF) by Javier Blasco-Zumeta]

ounds and videos

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Blackbird — Black bird (bl[a^]k b[ e]rd), n. (Zo[ o]l.) In England, a species of thrush ({Turdus merula}), a singing bird with a fin note; the merle. In America the name is given to several birds, as the {Quiscalus versicolor}, or crow blackbird; the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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