When is a blackbird not a black bird?




The male blackbird claiming a feast


The blackbirds are hunting for food. There are berries galore on the tops of trees and shrubs, so it’s easy to find a feast. There are red and yellow glints like Christmas baubles strung all over the topmost twigs. But it’s not the red ones that go to first, it’s the yellow berries on a cotoneaster. It’s only a few years old and still a small tree, but already producing flowers then pale, yellow berries, in profusion. There is another red-berried cotoneaster standing nearby but it’s not what the blackbird wants today.

He wants the yellow berries, which the finger twigs hold up to the sky like a waiter with a tray, and the blackbird can’t resist. I watch from nearby as he flies from the woodland straight to the top with a sharp shout. He stands astride the highest branch, guarding his hoard.

‘Finders keepers,’ he seems to be saying. And woe betide any other comers, hoping for a share in his fortune. He is not generous even at this time of year.

You will not see blackbirds feeding or flocking together in your garden. You will have several blackbirds, I am sure, but they will not share and will not tolerate each other. I saw two males fighting on the frosty lawn this morning, they are already marking their territory even in this cold weather. His beak will soon be brighter yellow and his feathers a glossier black and then he will look for his female. But not yet.

The female who joins him on the top branches is trying to share his berries, but she is sent away. I have seen her hiding in the bushes or going to the bird table until the coast is clear. When the male has had his fill, the female takes her chance and sneaks to the side branches, almost hidden, to sample the forbidden fruit.

The female blackbird is not black and smart like the male. She is brown with a dull beak, and the one I saw on the bird table, was streaky and speckled, almost like a thrush. Strange to say I have seen a male blackbird who is not black either. On the island of Tresco on the Isles of Scilly I have seen white blackbirds.

So, when is a blackbird not a black bird? When it’s a female or when it’s white!


The brown female sneaking up for a berry or two

The 'white' blackbird I saw on the Isles of Scilly

Comments

  1. Love the photos and informative comments

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