Blackbird with black beak?

If you are looking out of your window and happen to see what appears to be a blackbird but with a black beak, your eyes may not be deceiving you. There have been a growing number of reports in recent years, especially in winter of blackbirds that do not appear to have the distinctive orange-yellow beaks and ring around the eye.

Generally speaking, the resident UK Blackbird develop the distinctive orange-yellow beak and eye-ring around the first year of their life. In contrast, Blackbirds from other parts of Europe are believed not to develop their orange-yellow beak and eye-ring until the second year of their lives. Seeing a blackbird in your garden with a black beak and eye-ring is therefore likely to be a first-year male blackbird, perhaps a winter visitor from Europe.

The Blackbird is a iconic garden bird, read on for further interesting facts about the blackbird.

Where can you find blackbirds?

Blackbirds are resident in the UK and are found right across the country. As the temperature drops in Europe, the Blackbird population in the UK increases as birds from Europe join them. This is when the majority of blackbirds that have black beaks are spotted in the UK. In addition to the UK and Europe, the Blackbird can also be found in Asia, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. However, unlike the birds in Europe, Blackbirds found in Australia and New Zealand are believed to have been introduced.

How do you tell the difference between male and female Blackbirds?

There are some very distinctive differences between male and female Blackbirds as follows:

Male adult Blackbirds have black plumage with orange-yellow beak and similar eye-ring.

Female Blackbirds are dark brown in colour and have a duller yellow-brown beak.

FoodInsects, worms, berries and fruit

Blackbird food

The Blackbirds primary source of food consists of worms and insects but they are also known to eat berries and fruit depending on the time of year and the availability of food. During the summer months, Blackbirds love nothing more than eating apples that have dropped from trees. In winter, when frozen ground conditions can prevent Blackbirds from easily accessing worms. Blackbirds can often be found perched upon holly trees or bushes consuming the high energy red berries that are produced. Although these berries are very hard initially, they soften naturally as a result of wet weather and hard frosts overnight. Blackbirds seem to know when the time is right to take advantage of this natural food source and do so readily.

Blackbird nesting and brood habits

Taking around 2 weeks to construct, the Blackbird creates a nest that is built from grass, straw and small twigs in the classic cup shape. It’s a robust nest, strengthened by a lining of mud, fine grass and moss. The Blackbird rears between 2-3 broods a year and the strength of the nest means that the Blackbird may even be able to use it again for the second brood. The weather has a direct bearing on when the breeding season commences or ends. If weather conditions are favourable, some Blackbirds have been known to have 3-4 broods in the same year. When choosing a nesting location, Blackbirds prefer trees, shrubs and climbers.

Fact: Blackbirds are monogamous and a pair will stay together until one of them dies.

The female Blackbird typically lays around 3-5 eggs in a clutch with the chicks hatching around 14 days after this. It is usually the female Blackbird that incubates the eggs but the male bird will actively participate in feeding the young once they have hatched.

Blackbird lifespan

The life of a blackbird is relatively short, estimated at between 3-4 years although there are some examples of Blackbirds living considerably longer. Through careful studies of ringed birds, Blackbirds are able to be closely monitored leading to discoveries of lifespan and migratory habits.

The sound of a Blackbird

The song of the Blackbird is one of the most notable of all the birds in the UK. In the winter months, Blackbirds are known to sing at a much lower level, appearing to almost sing to themselves. Referred to as ‘quiet song‘ you may hear it emitting from a hedge or shrub but listen carefully as it is so quiet that it can usually only be heard when standing a few yards away. This subdued sound is in stark contrast to the much louder song that the Blackbird sings during summer months which is also often sung from a high up perch, loud and proud to attract a mate.

Once the breeding season has concluded Blackbird song becomes less frequent and Blackbirds stop singing until the following February.

Do Blackbirds migrate?

Blackbirds are resident in the UK and can be found throughout the year right around the country. Although some UK ringed Blackbirds have been tracked migrating, the majority only move around the UK. In contrast to this, many European Blackbirds do come and overwinter in the UK and Ireland. This is because temperatures in the UK are often much milder than those in parts of Europe and Blackbirds as well as other species use this fact to their advantage, seeking out this milder weather.

Are Blackbirds territorial?

Blackbirds like the Robin Red Breast are known to be very territorial and become particularly aggressive when defending their territory during the breeding season. Typically, male Blackbirds establish their territory early in their lives (around the first year) and then continue to hold it throughout their lives. This territory typically equates to around half an acre and is critical for pairing and nesting.

Once the breeding season is over, Blackbirds become less aggressive and it is during these autumn and winter months when Blackbirds may move in search of food in other locations where food sources may be easier to come by.

White Blackbirds

Although the name may suggest otherwise, there are examples of some white or discoloured Blackbirds. The condition known as albinism or partial albinism is generally most notable in Blackbirds most likely due to the stark contrast of the Blackbirds usual black and glossy plumage. It is usually the male blackbird that suffers from this condition although females have also been known to suffer from the condition.

Unfortunately, Blackbirds that suffer from albinism are at greater risk from predators due to not being able to blend into their surroundings quite as easy. There is also evidence to suggest that they may suffer from bullying from other birds as a result of appearing different to the rest of the species. Appearing distinctly different may also result in them being perceived as a threat.

Other related question asked

Are white blackbirds rare? White Blackbirds are extremely rare. Aside from their condition of albinism is a rare condition that is often inherited. A Blackbird with white plumage leaves it extremely susceptible to predators. Another condition called leucism is also known to affect Blackbirds but unlike albinism, it does not completely eliminate pigment from plumage. This can leave the bird considerably paler than the rest of its species but not white.

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I'm Wayne. For many years, I have been a fan of feeding the birds in my back garden and often asked myself questions about what I was seeing. This prompted me to research things further and I have continued to do so ever since. This is the site where I share everything I have learned.

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