Bird song (6) – Blackbird

I walked to the postbox down our street the other evening. The post is collected at 9am but so often when I think ‘I’ll pop along in the morning’ I later end up thinking ‘Missed the post again’. So in the evening gloom I strolled along the road past Victorian red-brick houses on the right. Two Blackbirds were singing.

Just then, the song of the Blackbird was my favourite bird song in the world, ever! Have a listen to these two examples, the first from Faro in Portugal and the second from Tower Hamlets, London;

Whereas the Song Thrush is clearly trying to put on a performance with its song, and succeeding, the Blackbird is a much more homely rendition. Song Thrushes sound as though they are broadcasting to the world, including to me when I am listening, Blackbirds sound like they are singing to the neighbourhood, and I’m part of that.

Standing by the red postbox I listened to an unseen Blackbird and felt soothed. Who would not? ‘And for that minute, a Blackbird sang‘, and it was a wonderful minute.

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8 Replies to “Bird song (6) – Blackbird”

  1. Henning Mankell loved the song of the Blackbird too, sufficient enough to have thought of having the words
    'I have heard the blackbird. I have lived'
    inscribed on his gravestone. (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jan/30/henning-mankell-farewell-cancer-dying-unpublished-pieces)

    Blackbirds don't seem to sing here (i.e. my garden in South Wales until much later in the year - May? June? - I need to make a note) - whereas the Song Thrushes having been singing regularly since the morning of the winter solstice - although there are at least 2 regular male blackbirds in the garden. I'm always rather jealous of people who hear them earlier in the year.

    As others have already noted - this is a splendid blog series Mark, thank you.

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  2. Yes, the blackbird’s melodious song has communal appeal. It’s everywhere; there’s lots of it and it’s easily recognisable because the singing bird is often so visible. Moreover, some older individual’s songs can be amusing too – the way these days bits of modern electronic sound, such as ringtones are sometimes included. Other individuals will occasionally add in notes and short phrases other species. There used to be one blackbird here who would always end its song with a rook’s high pitched spring call note.

    By comparison, song thrushes never seem to use mimicry or vary their song (?)

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  3. One summer one of our local blackbirds included in its song a phrase like the start of 'My blue heaven'. If I whistled 'when whip-poor-wills call...' as I walked down the garden it would sing back to me.

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  4. I always think of the Blackbird's song as an evening event although it sings in the early morning as well. Its song seems more suited to the gentleness of evening, whereas that of the Song Thrush is definitely a bright morning event. The Blackies aren't really singing here yet in mid Wales Song and Mistle Thrushes are along with Great tits and a few Robins and Chaffinches. A male Siskin gave full voice yesterday queuing for the bird feeder too. All different all marvellous. The "non singers" Buzzard, Red Kite and Goshawk have been calling more regularly too joining the various noises made by the local Ravens.

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  5. I love the blackbirds fluted song, especially as Paul noted in the evening, when it's near dark. To me it always reinforces the fact Spring is on the way. I find it wonderfully reassuring.

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  6. My absolute favourite bird song. It always makes me think of the word 'plangent' and reminds me of summer evenings playing out as a child. I find song thrush song brash in comparison.

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  7. Since lockdown, our road has been full of blackbird song. I have been working from home so obviously notice it more. There a few individuals singing at dawn and dusk, that I can locate the position of in neighbouring gardens due to their recognisable phrasing from ‘popular’ songs. I keep a note of these songs as follows;
    -Feeling hot hot hot
    -Old Mac Donald had a farm
    -Nokia Espionage ring tone
    -Camptown races
    It kind of got me thinking whether the tunes to these popular songs were subconsciously composed from listening to Blackbird song?....

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