Subject: blackbirds
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Mon, 28 Jul 2003 12:29:17 +0200

                                        BLACKBIRDS HERE AND THERE
        It may have surprised you, that I who am usually so quick to write about
European birds, have not chimed in earlier on this subject. Several
reasons, the main one being that I have very little experience with
Blackbird song in Australia (I have heard your Song Thrushes, though, in
Melbourne, and they shout just as lustily and repetitively as they do here
in Tromsø. It is a wonderful bird to cheer you up when the weather is
bad!). Also, I live just too far north for Blackbirds, although this is
among the southern species that slowly are making their way north, and last
spring I have heard them sing in the forest near Anderdalen. There they
sing , to my not very musical ears, exactly the same as further south in
Europe, but these birds are still shy forest birds---as all Blackbirds used
to be some centuries ago, and therefore one always hears them at a
distance. In Odijk, Riet's village in Holland, on the other hand, the
Blackbird is a very common urban bird indeed, and I think almost every
little garden has a nesting pair of them, so that in the right season, you
always hear several at the same time, usually singing from roofs and TV

        I think that such close competition and hotly competed for small
territories indeed brings out the best in these birds, in that song is one
of the main factors that decides who gets the best territories and who is
chosen first by the ladies. And therefore it may well be so, that in such
high densities the song of at least some of the birds is more varied and
richer than where the boirds live more spread-out. In addition the
impression the song makes on the human listener is probably considerably
greater when you hear many Blackbirds singing from close by in an otherwise
urban setting, than when a single Blackbird is only one voice in a varied
bird chorus, heard from a distance.

        I do not want to wander out in the minefield of comparing the quality of
songbirds in Australia and in Europe. Suffice it to say that I am
enormously impressed by many of your songsters, maybe most of all by the
Pied Butcherbird, which may come as a surprise to some, but that I am also
completely content with our Nightingales, Bluethroats, European Robins, and
Myrtle and Icterine Warblers, and yes, also Song Thrush and Blackbird, here
in Europe.

        The theory that Blackbird song in Australia in some way would be
influenced by the many very aggressive bird species there (Noisy Miners not
least) sounds little convincing to me. I do not think song is used much
interspecifically in songbirds, different from e.g. alarm calls.

                                                                Wim Vader, 
Tromsø Museum
                                                                9037 Tromsø, 

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