The Blackbird is one of the commonest garden birds in northern Europe, frequenting a broad range of different habitats in every possible garden context.
Blackbirds show all the classic thrush characters and traits; they are quite stocky, with plump bodies, rounded heads, longish wings and longer tail. They hop, run and flick the wings and tail in various degrees of agitation. They also scurry under cover at the merest sign of danger.
In Britain the resident population is augmented in the autumn and winter, with the arrival of birds from the Continent.
The male Blackbird (left) is the only jet-black garden bird. The plumage, in spring, can take on a very glossy look but into the summer months the wings, in particular, can look brownish through wear. The bill and eyerings are bright orange-yellow and the legs and feet are dark grey. The eye itself is jet-black. An adult female Blackbird (right) comes in a couple of subtly different guises – a rufous and a grey-brown version, with much variability in between. The head and upperparts can vary from dark chocolate-brown to dark greyish-brown with an olive wash. The tail is black. The throat is pale with fine dark streaks. The heavily mottled breast colour varies from dark tawnybrown to greyish-brown. The mottled belly tends to be paler than the breast. The bill is blackish-brown, with a yellowy base, and they lack the bright yellow eyering of the male. The eye and leg colour are as in the male.
A resident male Blackbird will make his intentions very clear from early January onwards, with any perch being suitable, be it a rooftop, television aerial, wall or treetop. The song is a delight, full of flutey notes delivered with breathtaking clarity. One of the garden’s champion songsters.
Once moulted from its juvenile plumage this first-winter male shows the signs of adulthood. The upperparts are dull black, contrasting with dark brown wings – but lacking the olive tones of the female. The underparts, except the throat, are blackish-brown. The face and throat are greyish-black, with fine white streaks. The eyering is yellow and the bill is black.
Pictured in a characteristic tailcocked pose, juvenile Blackbirds appear more rufous than the adult female, and they are certainly more heavily mottled, on both the upper- and the underparts. The throat is whitish, with very thin streaks. The wings show broad fringes and tips, all indicating the very fresh plumage.
Blackbirds are one species in which albinism (partial or total) is relatively commonplace. Many people will have seen a Blackbird showing liberally scattered random white patches. Sometimes a male Blackbird exhibits a white breast gorget, like that of its hill-loving cousin, the Ring Ouzel (top left). An albino with this feature often shows other white markings, and wholly black wings – Ring Ouzels have grey edges to their wings, the gorget is very broad and they are fractionally smaller.