We have been so lucky this year to of had a blackbird nest in one of our strawberry rows. It has been so interesting following the blackbird pair through their journey.
We notice the blackbirds and passed comment a few weeks back that they always seem to ‘be around.’ Little did we know they were busy making their nest. The nest, built by the female, is usually low down in any suitable cover – in our case the strawberry row! The nest that we saw was a substantial cup of grass, straw, small twigs and other plant material. It was plastered inside with mud and lined with fine grass. It is thought that it can take up to two weeks to complete, and sometimes the same nest is used for successive broods.
It wasn’t long before we spotted the nest with 4 eggs! The smooth, glossy eggs were a light greenish-blue with reddish-brown spots. It is a known fact that the female incubates the eggs by herself.
It wasn’t long before we saw the tiny chicks start to emerge from the eggs (they have an incubation period of 10-19 days). After the young hatch, they are fed by both parents on earthworms and caterpillars and our picking team have been watching as both the male and female blackbird forage for food and return to the nest to feed the hungry mouths. The chicks are still in the nest today, but we expect them to be ready to leave within the next couple of days. They are normally ready to fledge at 13-14 days, but if the nest is disturbed, they can leave and survive as early as nine days old. This ability to fledge early is an important anti-predator adaptation. The young birds creep and flutter from the nest, and remain in nearby cover for the following few days.
The young birds are flightless at first, but within a week will have learned to fly. By this time, they begin to experiment with foods, learning by trial and error what is edible. As their skills and confidence grow, they begin to explore their parents’ territory and range more widely – we will look out for them in the raspberry tunnel too! The young become independent three weeks after leaving the nest and leave the natal area shortly after.
Fledged young are often left in the care of the male, while the female prepares for the next nesting attempt. The last brood of the season is usually divided between the parents, with each adult taking sole care of some of the young. We are looking forward to watching the young birds ‘find their feet’ with their new surroundings and who knows if the nest will be used again or we may see another one being built in another row.