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My blackbirds - 'A Tail of Two Pretties'

Posted on 4th November, 2022

Sorry about the awful pun, but read on anyway and all will become clear!


With the farmer’s permission, in September we gleaned a stock of Bramley apples from those left over after the pickers had finished. As we use the best, we throw out the deteriorating ones for the birds who, so far this winter, haven’t been seriously challenged by long periods of hard weather. But a large apple in the centre of a potentially attractive garden breeding territory hasn’t gone unnoticed by the local blackbirds. Add a fit-looking female and it’s a good reason for local males too get excited.




Please note – describing her as fit-looking is not misogyny gone mad. Fit is a genuine biological term used to describe an individual of either sex that appears, to a potential mate, to be in robust health, and with sufficiently good genes with whom to reproduce! Romantic, eh?

Anyway, my female has attracted the amorous intentions of two – it has to be said – pretty males. They circle the apple (and occasionally her, the object of their affections) turn-about-turn, each following the other, in a Charlie Chaplin-like gait. She, meanwhile, assumes a bored demeanour while scoffing the fruit, but is probably surreptitiously sizing them up. Which one, if either, will capture her affection?


Both appear equally attractive from a distance. Equal in size, so probably both British birds and not winter migrants over here from Europe for a milder winter. I’ll resist the politicians’ ploy of regaling them as our Great British blackbirds because they are probably slightly smaller than their foreign cousins – the further north individuals of a species live, the bigger they are likely to be (according to Bergmann’s rule).


Looking more closely though, one appears to have a slightly less depth of yellow on its bill and eye-ring – an indicator of a slightly less-strong immune system. This same bird isn’t quite as glossy black either – his wings are a dark brown, rather than glossy black. His tail is the clincher though – the feather ends are worn and tatty, rather than neat and near-pristine like his rival’s. He’s a young bird, less than year old. Likely to lose out, therefore, to the more mature (and more experienced) contender to father the female’s young.




Not the actual birds-editor


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