Blackbirds are one of the most common visitors in our gardens and we may greet our resident Blackbird with a smile when he comes looking for food or gives us a song. But, can we be sure that it’s the same bird year after year. How long do Blackbirds live in the wild, what threats do they encounter to shorten their lifespan, and what can we do to help them live as long as possible. In this article, I will answer How Long do Blackbirds Live?
The average age for Blackbirds is 3.4 years, but there are many Blackbirds recorded as living much longer. How long a Blackbird lives will significantly depend on when they nest, how well they survive into adulthood and whether they can establish a good territory.
The average lifespan of a Blackbird is different from the length of time that they can live for.
What Is The Lifespan of A Blackbird?
The mean age is stated as being 3.4 years old. This doesn’t sound like a lot, especially when there is evidence of a ringed bird that died when they were 20 years and 3 months old. So what is going on here? Why is the average age so low and was that record-breaking individual just very lucky?
The answer is somewhere in the middle. That 20-year-old adult bird was lucky to have survived that long because of the risks it would have faced across its lifetime. But, there are sure to be plenty of others that live longer than 3.4 years. The average age has to take into account the mortality rates of chicks as well as young adults. When you add together the number of birds lost this early on – due to various causes, this brings the average down significantly.
Why Are Blackbird Chick Survival Rates So Low?
As much as we want every egg laid to result in a healthy chick that fledges and leads a healthy adult life, nature just doesn’t work that way. In fact, songbirds raise large broods knowing that only a percentage will survive and they are just trying to even the odds.
One of the most significant risks to Blackbird chicks in the garden is predation from other birds or animals. Blackbird nest out of sight and near the ground in hedges and cavities. But this also means that they are accessible to anyone small enough to climb around and take what they can get. Large predators are unlikely to get in there, although clever corvids can stake out nests and raid them. Small mammals may also come in and eat the eggs. Out in the wild, there is also the threat from snakes.
On the subject of food, a whole brood can only survive if there is enough food to go around. In lean seasons where birds struggle to find enough to eat, only a handful of chicks will get adequate nutrition to grow and survive to fledging age. In addition, there is a spiral effect where the birds that fail to get big and strong aren’t able to call and show their gapes at the entrance to the nest. This means even less food is received until they eventually perish.
Weaker members of the brood won’t make it, which could occur for a range of reasons. In addition to some chicks not getting enough food, they may also not get enough warmth during colder periods. Parent birds need to cover as much of the nest as possible and insulate the brood to regulate their body temperature. But, some smaller chicks could get pushed out the way, especially in larger broods fighting for space. Then there is the fact that some chicks are simply runts that have the odds stacked against them from the start.
In Which Month Do Blackbird Eggs Hatch?
The nesting season for Blackbirds is long and there is no specific month for all chicks. Some adults will nest early enough that the eggs hatch in mid-to-late March. This could be a good decision if the weather is good and there is enough food around or a disaster in a frosty spring with bad storms. Some Blackbird pairs will also lay three clutches over the year to try and raise as many young as they can. This means the season extends into July sometimes, leading to chicks hatching in a much hotter climate. This is great for better access to insect life but not so good if there is a heatwave.
It is also important to remember that even if these eggs hatch at a favourable time and some chicks can fledge, there is no guarantee that they will still make it into adulthood. There is a lot to learn in that first year as chicks find their own food and search for a suitable territory. Some won’t have what it takes in a competitive world.
Why Might An Adult Blackbird Die?
There are a few reasons why an adult bird might die young even after surviving past this juvenile stage. First, they may struggle in adverse conditions even if they were successful the previous winter. Perhaps the first winter was particularly mild and the bird was able to find food and water with ease and not deal with any minus temperatures. But, it could be a different story if the second winter is much worse, with no insects above ground, limited supplemental food, and frozen ponds.
What Predates Blackbirds?
Blackbirds are also a prey species and could be taken out by predators. There are plenty of potential culprits out in the wild. If you are out in the woods and hear a Blackbird alarm call and see one flying by, there is a good chance that a predator is in the area. Sparrowhawks will go for Blackbirds with ease. They can chase them into hedges and undergrowth in the hope of sinking in those talons. Many sparrowhawk hunts are unsuccessful, but it is worth the effort because of that extra meat on a Blackbird compared to other songbirds. Foxes will also try and pounce on unsuspecting Blackbirds out in the countryside if they think they can get away with it. Over in our gardens, domestic cats are a bigger concern for Blackbirds and a range of other wild birds. Cats without bells on their collars can stalk avian prey and take out a large number collectively each year.
Blackbird deaths may also result from injuries, either at the hands of these predators or through accidents. A bird that damages its wing can’t fly away from danger, a bad leg will make it harder to hop across the ground to find food or perch, and a blinded eye will make it challenging to see insects and judge distances. Injuries can also lead to infections that could eventually kill the bird. These injured birds are also easier to prey on. A fox that spots a Blackbird struggling to fly could single it out and go for the kill.
Do Blackbirds Return To The Same Garden?
As a general rule, there is a good chance that a Blackbird will return to the same garden year after year. Blackbirds are territorial birds that will fight off intruders and attempt to hold onto a fruitful patch for as long as possible. In summer, birds breeding in your garden will spend the winter in the area and attempt to breed the following year again. That is where the other important trait comes into play. These birds are monogamous. Where possible, they will mate for life, reestablishing bonds and pairing up to breed year on year,
The only problem here is that it is so difficult to distinguish Blackbirds from one another that you might not know if you have the same returning birds or a usurper. A rival male taking over the patch might look identical and we end up welcoming back an entirely new bird. We may have a better chance of tracking a bird over the years if they are ringed or have a physical trait, such as a white patch due to leucism.
How To Help Your Local Blackbirds Live Longer.
So, now you know that your local Blackbirds are not only likely to be long-term residents but also could live for many years, what can you do to help them achieve that? The more we do within our gardens to make them Blackbird-friendly spaces and help birds survive the seasons, the better their chances. Of course, there will always be risks out in the wild, and we can’t interfere with the needs of wild predators that rely on other birds for food, but we can play our part. For example, we can try and deter outdoor cats, especially those that don’t wear bells, while also providing safe spaces for Blackbirds to live and plenty of food.
Where Do Blackbirds Sleep?
Blackbirds make their nests in hedgerows or suitable birdboxes during the breeding season. Because of their habits and size, they don’t use the ones we put up for songbirds in trees. Instead, they prefer secluded open-fronted boxes much lower down on trees and in the undergrowth. Give them plenty of places to hide from danger where they won’t be seen. This also means planting evergreen shrubs to have a safe space to retreat to in the winter.
Providing Food For Blackbirds In Your Garden.
Blackbirds love coming to feed and nest in healthy, sustainable gardens where they can find a wide variety of types of food. These birds are happy taking molluscs and insects from the ground, which means finding gardens that aren’t too fussy about slug prevention or the use of pesticides. Birds will clean up the pests for you with ease. They will also enjoy eating berries and fallen fruit in the summer and autumn. The wider the variety, the more they have to choose from. So, consider some brambles and low-growing fruits rather than just fruit trees. Don’t worry about clearing up fruit from the ground, as someone will make good use of it. Also, consider leaving something behind when gathering a harvest.
Supplemental feeding is another way to provide food for Blackbirds in a garden. These ground-dwelling birds aren’t going to head up to a feeder to take seed and peanuts with the Blue Tits and other songbirds. They are too heavy for a start. But, they will pick up leftovers on the ground. It is also a good idea to sprinkle some mealworms on the ground and on bird tables during the breeding season to give them some extra nutrients as they feed themselves and their young. Then, you can switch over to something with higher fat content in winter, such as suet and a little mild grated cheese. Please don’t put out bread or other human food as they can do more harm than good.
Could Your Blackbirds Live To Be 20? It is unlikely, but not impossible. There is a slim chance that every egg laid by your blackbird pair will lead to a successful fledging. Some will fail to hatch, some chicks will die in the nest due to a lack of food, and some broods will be predated outright. But, there is also the chance that some will fledge, thrive as juveniles, and find their own territories. Some of those may get lucky, beat the 3.4-year average, and then thrive for decades. With the proper support in your garden, your current pair could do the same.
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