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Not all Blackbirds are Black Birds: DIVERSIFLY BLOG #2

Male Blackbird by Nadia Kingsley

Blackbirds are really easy to identify aren’t they?… I mean even from this rather poor attempt at a drawing, by me – I think almost everyone would be able to tell it was a blackbird.

And they would be right. Well, half right…

For the female blackbird is a brown colour, has a brown beak and no orange around its eye. It has taken me ages to start to feel confident about recognising one! I was getting her mixed up with thrushes – though thrushes seem to have much paler, specklier tummies. Oh how I wish they would all line up in front of me one day, as if they were taking part in an Identity Parade!

Anne Harding, in Wolverhampton writes this about an experience with a non-black blackbird:

I was returning to my car after a visit to Madeley. My friend and I were walking on the pavement of a busy road when we saw a female blackbird pecking on the ground. As we walked towards it we realised that the bird looked unwell, its feathers were unkempt and it was unsteady on its legs. We wanted to make sure it was safe on this busy road and began looking for somewhere to put it. There was a tall brick wall with hawthorn bushes on top and as we looked upwards we saw a black and white kitten coming out of the bushes towards us. I immediately stroked the cat to distract it from the blackbird, and my friend began to shepherd the bird around the corner. The kitten ended up around my neck like a scarf and was purring down my ear. I carried it to safety. By this time the bird had found a safe place to hide and in a few minutes we saw the mother blackbird flying towards her fledgling.

Bill Bailey writes, in Bill Bailey’s Remarkable guide to British Birds:

Male blackbirds stake out their territory in their first year, which they will keep for the rest of their lives

In Mark Cocker/Richard Mabey’s Birds Britannica it says:

There are thought to be more than six million pairs in Britain and Ireland. Wren and chaffinch are the only two bird species that exceed this total.

Blackbirds will build [nests] above doorways, next to windows, in garden sheds, ice buckets, plant pots, lobster creels and a hundred other inauspicious locations.

When I have been gardening on a winter’s afternoon – I know when it is time to start packing up the garden fork, tidying things away in the shed: not by where the big hand is on my watch, but by blackbird song – which, I believe, is the last song we hear: as dusk turns to night…

Brett Westwood/ Stephen Moss in Wonderland describe the return of the blackbirds’ song in March like this:

he’s recognisable from certain unique passages in his repertoire: a flourish here, a fluty garle there and an impeccable sense of timing, pausing briefly to let you savour each phrase. Cars roll over the wet road with a sound of unpeeling sticking plaster but his song rises above it, proclaiming his ownership to other blackbirds nearby…… they are one of the most successful urban birds

 

Linocut by Gordon Yapp

Probably the most famous blackbird poem of all time (until now?!) is by Wallace Stevens: Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird Wallace Stevens, 18791955. It’s not one of my favourite but I know people who adore this poem. Turns out he was American – I didn’t know that, but then there is so much I don’t know !

Here is a British blackbird poem, by a different dead poet:

William Ernest Henley. 1849–1903
8. The Blackbird
THE nightingale has a lyre of gold,
The lark’s is a clarion call,
And the blackbird plays but a boxwood flute,
But I love him best of all.
For his song is all of the joy of life,          5
And we in the mad, spring weather,
We two have listened till he sang
Our hearts and lips together.

 

here are a few images of Blackbirds that caught my eye on google… as well as a painting by Mary Fedden:

        

I must say – I never tire of watching a blackbird dashing along, so purposefully, head forward, body low, always somewhere they need to go, fast. Nadia x

Go to the following links for more information online, on blackbirds

RSPB on blackbirds including a recording of its song

RSPB on blackbird behaviour

RSPB on blackbird breeding

RSPB on not all MALE blackbirds are Black Birds

This Blog is part of a series of Blogs that are part of the Fair Acre Press project –  DIVERSIFLY: everyday encounters with the birds of Britain’s towns and cities. For more details on the project go here

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2 Responses to Not all Blackbirds are Black Birds: DIVERSIFLY BLOG #2

  1. Jane Lovell May 13, 2017 at 8:37 pm #

    Blackbird

    A conduit from sky to earth
    he holds the perfect angle,

    steals into his keyhole portal
    bird-shaped pieces of anti-matter.

    Planets course through,
    constellations, that black stuff
    that surrounds stars and goes on forever.

    He tilts his beak – a final swish of laurel,
    softwood echoes for his evening song –

    then trucks along on twiggy legs
    delicate and tough as hazel.

    He owns this:
    day, space, runway of path and lawn.

    He is his own person:
    dark thief, shaman, practising the old ways
    of the ouzel,

    stores storm and midnight in his feathers,
    hops them into drifts of dry leaves,

    seduces worms with his rain dance,
    stamps them up from secret crumbling halls,

    holds them twisting and curling
    in his tight yellow beak,

    the globe of his eye capturing the whole world
    and you
    in a quiet blink.

    • Nadia May 14, 2017 at 9:34 am #

      Thanks for sharing this poem Jane Lovell!

      You know this isn’t the place to submit poems for the DIVERSIFLY book?

      If you or anyone else would like to submit poems or artwork then go to the Urban Birds project page and click on the ” submittable” button there, thanks!

      All the best! Thanks for reading the blog!
      Nadia x

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