As I noted at the end of my story about our Labrador Jenna, a blackbird started to build a nest inside our veranda. It’s nest building was not going well, as the spot chosen was the lintel on the top of a doorway and there was nothing to hold the bits and pieces that it was gathering to make its nest, Everything was just falling on the floor and we were daily gathering up handfuls of twigs, bark and whatnot. Despite these issues, the Blackbird didn’t look like it was about to give up, having found what it thought was the perfect spot for a nest. Feeling somewhat down at the time with the loss of Jenna, I decided to give the Blackbird a hand and placed a piece of wood across the lintel to assist in holding the nesting materials in place. The blackbird was clearly very satisfied with this development and in no time had finished off the nest.
Now a few days past and the Blackbird was going to a fro from the nest, coming in near the roof where there was a small gap between the roof of the veranda and the house roof, yet often leaving via the other end through the main entrance to the veranda. It would often swoop just past our heads as we sat or moved about the veranda. Despite our presence and that of our Labrador, the Blackbird didn’t seem perturbed in the slightest; we could approach the nest without the Blackbird seeming to mind at all. Though no doubt it would be somewhat concerned but, given that it had built a nest in our territory, that was a concession it would have to make on our behalf. Even when I approached to take some close up photos, it didn’t make any sound or ruffle it’s feathers, it sat very still while I went about gathering evidence of its presence. Mind you, I wasn’t going to push things knowing that even though it seemed calm enough, it probably was having some palpitations.
While the Blackbird was in the garden foraging for food, I decided to see how it had built its nest. To my surprise, not only had it built it’s nest quite well, there were also four eggs residing in the nest. No wonder it was so intent on building a nest, it must have been desperate with four eggs on the way. On another note, the male Blackbird was always close by in the garden, but had never ventured under the veranda. I’ve often noted the male Blackbird going about in the garden and it too was never overly timid when I was about, though it was no where near as accepting as the female. This is in complete contrast to male and female King Parrots, where the males are as bold as you can get, ready to be hand fed, while the females are always somewhat reserved and a tad wary. And yes, the nest had turned out quite nicely, being much neater than I’d imagined and with the extra timber in place, a lot safer.
As a bit of background, I was always under the impression that the Blackbird was a native to Australia, but it appears that they were introduced in the 1850s onwards. The biological name for the Blackbird ‘turdus merula’ is somewhat unfortunate, as I certainly don’t consider the one or two that inhabit our garden are ‘turds’. Unfortunately the Blackbird is considered a pest in some locales, especially in Western Australia, being an introduced species, but I’d much rather have the odd Blackbird in our garden rather than Indian Mynas or sparrows, or a flock of Galahs, Little Corellas or Cockatoos. As far as I’m concerned, the Blackbirds appear to be fairly solitary birds and they simply forage in the undergrowth of our garden looking for insects, grubs, spiders etc. I doubt that there’s any ‘economic’ impact of a few Blackbirds living in the area.
Now according to sources, the incubation period is 14 days and time in nest in 14 days, so it’s not going to be very long before we have a nest full of squawking kids wanting to be fed 24/7. I’m not sure how that will go and we hope that it’s not going to be an endless cacophony, though a couple of weeks of squawking can’t be as bad as some of the noises we’ve had to put up with from time to time. The chicks were in fact very quiet throughout their stay. What did worry me is when the young chicks were leaving the nest. They were going to drop onto the floor of our veranda and then hopefully would be in a good enough state to make their way to the wider world. I’m going to have to keep an eye on Tas, but I don’t think he’ll be acting in a bad way towards the chicks given how he doesn’t feel the need to chase the Rosellas, King Parrots etc. Though he’s not too fond of our Bronzewing Pigeons, often telling them to shove off from the bird feeder.
It’s quite amazing how quickly these chicks have grown, in about two weeks (if that), they have become almost fully-fledged Blackbirds. Mum and dad have been going to and fro relentlessly for days now feeding the growing chick and they were getting very close to leaving the nest. I was given a hint about that as the mother used to leave us alone going back and forth with food, but then she started to dive bomb us when leaving the nest. This seemed to be a warning that her chicks were getting ready to leave and we’d better stay away. A few times she came so close to my head that her wings nearly touched me as the gust of air from her wings blasted my ears. It was on one of these days that we spotted one of the chicks standing on the door sill out of the nest and as I went to get my camera, in the few seconds that it took me, it had flown down and out the door. I really did want a shot of at least one of the chick in full plumage. So I kept the camera closer by in the hope that I’d get a second chance.
It wasn’t much later that I saw mum trying to goad the other two out of the nest, but the two chicks were having none of this and made their way back into the nest. Several times this happened and each time the chicks would simply refuse to leave. She was having as hard a time of it as many parents have of getting their grown kids to leave home. It’s much the same feeling I guess, why leave a safe, warm, abode with parents that hand feed and look after you 24/7. However, later that afternoon, we had a peek at the nest and it looked like they were all gone, I’d missed my opportunity. However, the next morning the parents were once again taking food to the nest and two chicks were still about. I don’t know how we missed seeing the chicks the day before, but maybe they could hide deeper in the nest now that one was gone and they did camouflage themselves fairly well in the dark cavity.
Anyway, I had a second chance, though I wasn’t holding my breath. However, as luck would have it, I did manage to catch all three remaining birds just before they flew the nest. Then it was just two left and finally they were all gone. Mum and dad were clearly having a difficult time getting the last chicks out of the nest. They were both twittering incessantly nearby in our garden, with food in their mouths, trying to entice the remaining two chicks to leave the nest and join the wider world. I’m not sure how long it took for the chicks to get the message, as I decided to remain inside and allow them to relax, but they finally did leave and we now had our veranda back to ourselves. All that remained was to remove the nest and clean things up.
It really became confusing after the last of the young Blackbirds departed, for next morning two were back in the nest, with parents bringing them food. Were they not quite ready to make it on their own or did the rain overnight send them back to more comforting surrounds? But overall things happened fairly fast, one minute there was a nest with four eggs, the next minute it was a bunch of chicks and then they were all gone. The nest was completed on 23 Nov and the chicks were gone by 13 Dec. While this was an interesting experience, I hope that next year the Blackbirds decide to find themselves a different location for nesting. Thankfully we won’t have to worry about Cockatoos or Corellas wanting to build nests under our roof.
Anyway the chicks had finally departed (we thought) when I heard them carrying on in the garden that night and the next morning dad (I think) was chirping loudly and constantly as if he was letting the world know that the kids have finally left home. I guess that’s something many parents wish they could do. However, the following morning one of the Blackbirds was again in the nest. I really have no idea what was going on, but a few days later they really were all gone (we hope).
Update 1. It looks like the nest was so good and successful that the Blackbirds are back for a second breeding session. My wife did some checking and Blackbirds can produce up to three broods in a season, so it here we go again. An interesting Christmas indeed. And I hope that Christmas is a good one for all my readers as well.