The common blackbird (Turnus morula), also known as the “black bird with an orange beak”, is a familiar songbird species found throughout much of Europe, Asia, and North Africa. With its distinctive black feathers and orange beak and eye ring, the male common blackbird is easy to identify by sight and by its melodious song.
The male common blackbird has jet-black feathers that appear with a blue-ish gloss in bright sunlight. The bill and eye ring of the male is orange-yellow. Females differ somewhat in appearance, with brown feathers rather than black and a dull yellow eye ring and bill.
Both males and females have a narrow yellow eye ring and yellow bill and feet. Their heads are proportionally large compared to body size. Common blackbirds measure around 25 cm in length and weigh between 80-125 g.
Key Identification Features:
- Male: All black feathers with blue-ish gloss, orange-yellow bill and eye ring
- Female: Brown feathers, dull yellow eye ring and bill
- Both: Narrow yellow eye ring, large head proportionally
- Size: 25 cm length, 80-125 g weight
Common blackbirds occupy a wide range of habitats, from woodlands and forests to parks, gardens, and agricultural areas. They prefer habitats that offer a combination of dense, protected vegetation for nesting and roosting sites with more open areas nearby to forage on the ground for invertebrates.
Some key habitat features include:
- Woodlands and forests: Especially those with dense undergrowth like brambles
- Hedgerows and thickets: Provide protection while also allowing ground foraging
- Parks and gardens: Particularly those with mature trees and dense shrubs
- Farmlands: Field edges, crops, and pastures offer foraging grounds
|Woodlands and Forests
|Dense undergrowth, mature trees
|Hedgerows and Thickets
|Dense shrubs, protection and foraging areas
|Parks and Gardens
|Mature trees, dense shrubbery
|Field edges, crops, pastures
Common blackbirds have an extremely large range across the western Palearctic region, covering most of Europe and extending into North Africa and broad areas of Asia. Their breeding range covers the following areas:
- Europe: Most of continental Europe and the United Kingdom
- Western Asia: Turkey, the Middle East, Caucasus region
- North Africa: Scattered populations in mountains and coastal regions
In Europe, blackbirds tend to be more abundant in the warmer south and west rather than the north and northeast areas of Scandinavia. They are somewhat migratory over the northern and eastern portions of their range, moving further south or west for the winter.
Countries With Large Common Blackbird Populations:
- United Kingdom
What Does a Common Blackbird Look Like?
The common blackbird is a medium-sized songbird, all black in color for the male and brown for the female. The most distinctive feature of the male is its all black plumage with a faint blue-ish gloss under bright light.
Females are brown rather than black, but both sexes share a proportionally large head and narrow yellow eye ring. See the table below for more identification details:
|Black with blue gloss
|Large, proportional to body
|Large, proportional to body
|Narrow yellow band
|Narrow yellow band
|About 25 cm long
|About 25 cm long
The common blackbird’s large head, yellow eye ring, and bold black (or brown) coloration makes them easy to recognize. Listen for their melodious song in woodlands and parks to spot these widespread songsters.
Common blackbirds breed very early in spring, with pairing up and nest construction beginning in late winter. They are prolific breeders, often raising 2-3 broods per mating season.
- Nesting period: Late March to early June; builds an open cup nest
- Clutch size: 3-5 eggs per clutch, blue-green with reddish spots
- Incubation: By female only, 12-14 days until hatching
- Fledging: Young leave nest at 13-16 days after hatching
- Broods per season: Often 2-3 broods
Both sexes participate in selecting the nest site, typically in a hidden location with good overhead cover. Females build the nest and incubate eggs, while males help feed both the incubating female and later, the hatchlings.
Feeding and Diet
Common blackbirds are omnivorous, consuming a wide variety of insects, earthworms, fruits and berries. Much of their diet comes from soil invertebrates like insects and worms captured while foraging on the ground.
Key food sources:
- Invertebrates: earthworms, snails, insects like beetles and caterpillars
- Fruit and berries: varieties eaten depend on season and region
- Grains: especially oats; will also eat household scraps
Foraging takes place primarily on the ground, rummaging through leaf litter and soil. Less frequently they may capture insects found on tree trunks and foliage. Fruits and berries are plucked from bushes and trees.
|Earthworms, beetles, caterpillars
|Fruit & Berries
|Varieties depending on season/region
|Plucked from bushes & trees
One of the common blackbird’s most distinctive features is the loud, melodious song of the male. Songs have a flute-like quality and are used to defend territories and attract potential mates.
In addition to complex songs, both males and females use a variety of calls to communicate:
- Alarm calls: harsh “chink” sounds warn of possible danger
- Flight calls: soft “seep seep” during migratory periods
- Begging calls: nestlings give rasping “tissick” from nest
Males sing year-round but peak from March-June during breeding seasons. Songs are often sung prominently from high perches. Repertoire sometimes exceeds 100 song types per male!
Common blackbirds sometimes cause damage by feeding on cultivated berries and fruit crops, especially grapes and cherries. However, they also provide important natural pest control services by preying on many insects and other invertebrates.
Some positive and negative economic impacts include:
- Preys on many agricultural pests
- Helps scatter seeds and pollinate some flowers
- Popular and visible songbird that frequents backyards
- Damages fruit crops like grapes and cherries
- Occasionally destroys flower beds seeking invertebrates
- Can spread some livestock illnesses
On the whole, this familiar songbird is more beneficial than detrimental across most of its range due to valued ecosystem services like pest control. Preventative netting helps reduce fruit crop losses.
Conclusion: black bird with an orange beak
With its jet black feathers and orange beak, the male common blackbird is among the most recognizable European songbirds. An omnivorous feeder subsisting mainly on invertebrates, common blackbirds provide valued pest control services alongside aesthetic beauty from their melodious songs.
While the females lack the male’s striking plumage, both sexes share helpful behaviors like providing food for nestlings and reducing insect pest populations. Despite occasional crop damage, the adaptable common blackbird will continue brightening parks and gardens across Eurasia for the foreseeable future.
Frequently Asked Questions About Common Blackbirds
What does a common blackbird look like?
The male common blackbird has jet-black feathers with a faint blue-ish gloss under bright light conditions. They have an orange-yellow bill and eye ring. Females are mostly brown rather than black, with a duller yellow bill and eye ring. Both have a proportionally large head and narrow yellow eye ring.
Where does the common blackbird live?
Common blackbirds have an extremely widespread range across most of Europe, North Africa, and broad regions of Asia. They occupy a diverse array of habitats including woodlands, thickets, farmlands, parks, and gardens.
What kind of sounds does the common blackbird make?
The complex, melodious song of male common blackbirds is one of their signature traits. Their flute-like songs are used to defend territories and attract mates. They also make a variety of rasping alarm and contact calls.
What does a common blackbird eat?
Common blackbirds are omnivores and consume a varied diet. Their main food items are soil-dwelling invertebrates like earthworms, beetles, slugs and snails. They also eat berries, fruits, grains, household scraps, and even small vertebrates on occasion.
How many eggs does a common blackbird lay?
A typical common blackbird clutch contains 3 to 5 eggs. The female incubates them for 12-14 days until hatching. Young commonly fledge just 13 to 16 days after hatching.
How many times does a common blackbird breed per year?
In warmer parts of their range with a lengthy breeding season, common blackbirds may raise up to 3 broods per year. Further north they more typically raise 1-2 broods of young per mating season.
Are blackbirds friendly or aggressive?
Male common blackbirds are notoriously territorial and aggressive in defending their nesting and feeding grounds. However, well-habituated urban birds can be quite tame compared to shy forest-dwelling ones.
What eats a blackbird?
Potential common blackbird predators include birds of prey like falcons and hawks as well as mammals like foxes, cats, martens, and stoats. Nestlings and eggs are vulnerable to jays, crows, rodents, and snakes.
Do blackbirds migrate?
Some common blackbird populations migrate short distances, but they generally do not make long migrations on par with species that travel vast distances between continents. Northern and eastern populations may move south/west in winter.
Why do blackbirds wake me up so early?
Male common blackbirds begin singing very early at dawn to defend territories and attract potential mates. Their loud melodious songs carry well through the still morning air across their territory.