Blackbirds live in Otley all year but at this time of year and throughout the winter our resident birds are joined by migrant birds from Northern Europe and Scandinavia. Blackbirds are on of the most common wild bird species in the UK and can be found everywhere; from our gardens to woodlands, hedgerows, scrublands and parks. In fact they are only missing at the very highest peaks, where they are generally replaced by Ring Ouzels. The typical lifespan for a blackbird is three years. However, the current longevity record for this species is 14 years and 9 months!
Blackbirds are soft-billed birds. Their bills are ideal for munching insects and fruit but tackling hard seeds or seeds with tough husks is impossible, as this would likely damage their beaks. In spring and summer insects and earthworms make up most of their diet, in autumn and winter; fruits take over. Blackbirds are often seen on the ground, flicking loose material such as leaves aside to find food. Whilst earthworms have to worry about Blackbirds, Blackbirds have to worry about Sparrowhawks and domestic cats when it comes to predators, but they may also be taken by other opportunistic birds of prey. The highest densities of nesting blackbirds is now in our gardens, studies have shown this is down to predation, 80% in woodlands are predated, whilst only 50% of nests are predated in gardens.
The male blackbirds live up to their name but, confusingly, females are brown often with spots and streaks on their breasts, this is known as sexual dimorphism. The bright yellow to orange beak and eye-ring make adult male blackbirds one of the most striking garden birds. Blackbirds are by far our most common thrush, others in their family include Missile and Song thrushes, Fieldfares, Redwings and Ring ouzels. During nesting season if they find a particularly delicious food source, Blackbirds can be fairly territorial but this all changes during the cold winter nights , when they will form communal roosts to help conserve heat.
The song of the blackbird is varied and clear and is considered to be one of the most beautiful. The male blackbird can be heard singing for long periods most mornings and evenings from February onwards, and can continue well into June. They nest form March to July and can have up to three broods per year, they lay up to four eggs which are incubated for 14 days. The young tend to fledge after another 15 days of being cared for by mum and dad. Whilst only the female incubates the eggs, the male helps feed his partner and when they hatch his offspring. The nest itself can be built in a variety of places, including trees, bushes and outhouses like sheds. Although blackbirds don't often use nest boxes, they will occasionally use open fronted ones.