Hear blackbirds singing in gardens and woods this summer

In August, male blackbirds (Turdus merula) are easy to spot in gardens all over France, with their ebony plumage and bright yellow-orange eye-rings and beaks, says biodiversity and bird protection charity LPO.

The female blackbird (merle noir in French) is more tricky to identify, with her mainly dark brown plumage. Their song is distinctively rich and melodious, as referenced in the Beatles’ song Blackbird.

In English, the name ‘blackbird’ was first recorded in 1486, and it might not be immediately clear why this species attracted the name and not other birds such as the crow, the raven, the rook or the jackdaw. But at that time, only smaller species were referred to as birds, larger species were called ‘fowl’ – which is why Turdus merula are called blackbirds, because at that time, they were the only black “birds”.

They live very commonly in gardens, and in woods where they prefer deciduous trees with dense undergrowth.

They protect their breeding territory with displays of threatening behaviour.

In warmer parts of France, they stay in their territory all year round although in colder areas, they move south for the winter.

They mate for life, and build neat, cup-shaped nests lined with mud, often in evergreen creepers like ivy, holly, hawthorn, and honeysuckle, although they will sometimes nest on the ledge of a building.

Nests tend not to be as well disguised as the nests of other birds, leaving them open to predators. They lay three to five blue-green eggs covered with red-brown speckles and the female sits on them for up to 14 days before they hatch.

The fledglings, even once they have left the nest, will often follow their parents around begging for food, and once the female starts sitting on a second clutch, which is very common, the male takes over feeding them.

They eat insects, worms, berries and fruits. 

Article originates from a column compiled in association with the bird charity, the Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux.

To find out more about its work, see lpo.fr

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