Saturday, 23 June 2012

It's Raining Blackbirds!

Male with worm
The persistent rain and wind has had an adverse effect on many of our breeding birds this summer: one only has to think of Little Terns on our east coast, nests completely washed away, not once but twice!

In the garden, I counted 11 Blackbirds patrolling the open lawned area, in all about an acre for them to hunt over.  A quick check revealed that 10 of those birds were males and they kept a discreet distance form each other as they moved over the damp surface.  Worms are easy to locate, being close to the surface after all the rain: so, at least one species is benefitting from the damp conditions! 

Female Blackbird

We have had enquiries from members of the public wondering where the female Blackbirds have disappeared to?  The chances are that most of the female Blackbirds are sitting on eggs, a second brood at this stage of the season.  Brooding the eggs is carried out by females alone, though once hatched the young are fed by both parents.

 Brown female contrasts with sharp black plumage and yellow beak of male


  1. Oran, it was very nice to see my Blue Tit photos and story on your blog; thanks; I hope readers found it of interest.

    I have a question for you on Jackdaws. On the day before midsummer's day this year, i.e. on 20th June, I saw Jackdaws gathering at roost here in Sandyford, south Dublin, at a small local wood where they roost in winter. The winter roost is small: I counted 285 birds once by studying a photo. The June gathering, however, was perhaps double this size, certainly at least 400 Jackdaws. Another difference is that they were not as vocal, nor did they swirl about as much prior to settling. But a roosting flight it definitely was, and in midsummer. I've seen them again in recent days. I wasn't aware that post-breeding roosting flights began in summer, at least not as early as this. Perhaps this year was unusually early? – Cóilín MacLochlainn

    1. Jackdaws are gregarious and roosting behaviour has been fairly well studied over the years: Once the breeding cycle is complete Jackdaws will congregate in pre roost flights and settle into their chosen woodland roost.. earlier in the season, breeding birds would have remained close to the actual nest site, which are often located in loose colonies.

      The size of the roost is interesting: right now the flock would contain a full complement of young birds, thereby swelling the ranks. However in winter, you would expect the ranks to be joined by wintering birds that migrate to us from northern Europe and for the roost flock to be augmented by Rooks. More counts needed through the season..

      It is certainly evidence that the nesting season has moved on to that post breeding phase (I am trying to refrain from mentioning Autumn!).

      Other birds I have noticed in post breeding flocks are Mistle Thrushes and of course, noisy hordes of Starlings. We have logged some calls for dispersing Great spotted Woodpeckers on peanut feeders, and nomadic Crossbills turning up on the coast. Has anybody else noted birds entering into post breeding flocks and roosts? If so, I would love to hear from you.

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