Blackbird's song - an analysis

To: birding-aus <>
Subject: Blackbird's song - an analysis
From: Vicki Powys <>
Date: Sat, 26 Jul 2003 09:18:48 +1000


There¹s been a lot of interesting conjecture from Birding-Aus people on this
topic, with some additional observations that Blackbirds seem melodious
enough on the Blue Mountains of NSW, and in Adelaide.

So now is the time to compare the actual songs, Europe vs Aussie!

I have now analyzed about an hour¹s worth of Blackbird song, on my computer,
using samples from Provence (France), Somerset and Cumbria (UK), and Sunny
Corner (near Bathurst) in NSW, Australia.

These are my findings:

1.  There is a tendency for there to be more phrases uttered per minute in
the European/UK birds, but there¹s not much difference really, and I¹d need
to analyze more song samples to reach any definite conclusion on this.

2.  The structure of each phrase is remarkably similar for the European/UK
birds, compared to the Sunny Corner birds, given the variation of phrases
for Blackbirds in general.

3.  The number of syllables per phrase averaged about the same for all the
European/UK birds and the Sunny Corner birds.

4.  To my ear, songs seemed to be equally melodious for all the Blackbirds I
listened to.

5.  There were a great number of different song phrases used by any one
bird, per bout of song, for all the Blackbirds I listened to.

6. Mimicry was sometimes incorporated into the songs of the Sunny Corner
birds and included brief snippets of Crimson Rosella, Grey Shrike-thrush,
Pied Currawong, Brown Falcon, Spur-winged Plover, Magpie-lark.  I am
unfamiliar with European songbirds so I can¹t comment on the mimicked
species for Blackbirds in Europe/UK.

Which brings us back to the question: If the actual song structure is so
similar for Blackbirds in Europe and Australia, then why do English folk and
travellers persistently comment that Blackbirds sing better in Europe?

My conclusion is that in Europe/UK, for whatever reason, there are just MORE

Any comments on that?

I also checked a bit of history for Blackbirds:

1857 private individuals brought birds to Melbourne, Vic
1862 Blackbirds were successfully established around Melbourne
1864-72 more birds introduced to Melbourne
1862 some were released in SA, where they quickly established
1870 birds released in Sydney and Qld did not survive, but by 1926 they were
established in Sydney, Albury, and later in Canberra.
1919 Blackbirds appeared in Tasmania.
2003 Blackbirds continue to colonize SE Australia.

Apparently the Blackbird was a shy woodland bird in Europe and UK until the
early 1800s, when it suddenly embarked on a period of aggressive
colonisation in Europe that is possibly still in progress, spreading to
cities and towns in France and Germany and is currently expanding into
Scandinavia.  What would have held them back prior to 1800?  Surely not from
being baked into so many pies?  Any comments?

Vicki Powys
Capertee Valley, NSW

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