I’m really fond of blackbirds, probably because I see so many of them in my garden. They come very close to the house to nibble at the goodies I leave out; I get a great view of them.
My neighbour has a row of conifers at the back of his properties and asked where blackbirds nest as he has seen a lot of activity. He spotted males and females travelling to and fro from a midway point in one of the trees.
He was right; blackbirds build their nests low down in bushes and trees, close to the ground where there is adequate cover from a threat. Some birds are known to make their nests in outbuildings and sheds.
I’m not sure they do their due diligence properly; they often select inappropriate places that leave them vulnerable.
Why blackbirds build their nests low down
While it might not seem the most sensible idea, blackbirds build their nests close to the ground for the sake of their young. They favour climbing plants, bushes, and hedges when they nest in gardens, as long as they feel it’s relatively safe.
Fledgelings leave the nest early before they are fully-formed and able to fly.
As they can’t fly from a high nest, they need to be close enough to the ground so that they can hop-out to safety.
Once on the ground, they try to stay alive, hiding amongst undergrowth until their feathers grow in. During this time, both parents continue to feed them.
When do blackbirds build their nests?
It is the hen that does all of the work when it comes to nest building. She begins work around the beginning of March, but the breeding season dates alter a little if spring starts off warm or cold.
The female finds the ideal site in heavy vegetation, bushes, trees, or climbers; and gathers plant matter. She makes the cup-like nest from grass, straw, and small twigs. Construction takes up to two weeks, as she strengthens it with mud before adding fine grasses for comfort.
Do blackbirds abandon their nests?
Breeding pairs of blackbirds leave their nests for a couple of reasons.
1. If they have raised their broods for the season
2. If they feel threatened.
They re-use their nest throughout the season, but only if they have raised a successful brood. Cold, harsh weather can be the cause of a nest failing.
Blackbirds lay 3-5 eggs; 2 or 3 times each breeding season. Occasionally they might attempt a fourth brood.
When their final brood has fledged safely, the pair have no further use for the nest and abandon it. This is usually in July but is sometimes late into August.
They may return to the same site the following year.
If the blackbird’s nest is under threat from predators, the birds abandon it, never to return.
Cats, crows, and birds of prey are their biggest threats; however, domestic pets, wasps, and humans sometimes frighten them away.
The hen lays one egg per day and doesn’t begin her incubation until she has laid the full clutch. This is known as hatching synchrony; the eggs are susceptible to predation while the mother is away from the nest.
Blackbirds sometimes leave unhatched eggs behind; if there is a chance to save their own lives and attempt a further brood, the birds snatch at it and flee.
It is uncommon for blackbirds to use another’s abandoned nest. Instead, they prefer to trust in the security and stability of their own handiwork.
Do blackbirds nest in gardens?
If there is somewhere the female bird deems safe, she may well build her nest in a garden although, it is more likely to be if few pets and noisy children are using it.
If there is somewhere with adequate cover and a nearby reliable food source, blackbirds nest in gardens. Hens are known to build more than one nest. She is testing the safety of the location, before settling on her favourite.
They also like to build their nest in lush woodland. However, the birds begin construction about 2 weeks later than in gardens and tend to have slightly larger clutches.
I passed on my findings to my neighbour. He was grateful for the information and decided, now that he knows where blackbirds nest, to try and help protect his family.
He pays special attention to the conifers, shoos away any visiting cats, and generously sprinkles the garden with mealworms to keep his blackbirds fighting fit!