Jun 20 2013

Blackbird Singing In The Dead of Night?

Published by at 6:30 am under Songbirds


The lyrics of the Beatles' Blackbird song used to puzzle to me. What blackbird sings in the dead of night?  In eastern North America I didn't know of any blackbirds that did that.

My worldview was too small.  North American blackbirds are icterids: Brewer's, red-winged, rusty, tri-colored and yellow-headed.  In England common blackbirds are thrushes, a single species Turdus merula similar to the American robin.

The common blackbird's song is complex, varied and beautiful.   His syrinx allows him to sing two songs simultaneously and even harmonize with himself.  In the video above he starts out loudly on a perch, then drops to the ground and whisper-sings just like a robin.  Like our robins he also sings at night.

Common blackbirds rival wood thrushes for virtuosity and grace notes.  For a longer sample of their song, dip into this 9 minute audio track on YouTube.

The Beatles recorded Blackbird 45 years ago this month.  Though it's not a song about birds, a blackbird sings on the soundtrack.  Click here to learn what the song is really about.

(videos from YouTube)

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Blackbird Singing In The Dead of Night?”

  1. Kirin Nielsenon 29 Jun 2013 at 1:41 am

    Why do birds chirp at night? I thought they would be asleep when it’s in the dark wee hours. It surprises me when *I* am up way too late and the birds are either still chirping, or started early, or never stopped.

  2. Kate St. Johnon 29 Jun 2013 at 5:57 am

    Robins and mockingbirds are two North American species who sing at night. I know they have different sleep cycles than we do because they fly at night during migration. In the nesting season they sing when they’re awake and are unafraid to claim territory (which is what singing is about) even in the dark. I guess when one individual starts singing they all speak up so they’re not outdone by the guy who’s saying “Mine, Mine, Mine” all night.

  3. Birdsongon 18 Jan 2014 at 7:07 pm

    I must correct you. In England blackbirds and thrushes are 2 different birds and are not the same.

  4. Kate St. Johnon 19 Jan 2014 at 6:32 am

    Birdsong, when I say that the blackbird is a thrush, I mean that it is in the true thrush family, Turdidae, as are many birds worldwide including the song thrush and the mistle thrush. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thrush_(bird)

    Most birds in this family do not have “thrush” in their name. In North America our most famous thrush is the American robin.

    In the UK the thrush family contains chats and thrushes, listed here by the RSBP:

  5. Jessieon 23 Oct 2015 at 7:58 am

    I’m in South Australia and right now (10:29pm) I can hear three blackbirds singing their song loudly and proudly haha. At first I thought it was one very confused bird out the back, singing all night instead of in the morning (showing my obvious lack of bird knowledge here). But I went outside one night, I wanted to hear him better as I sat and listened to his beautiful song before going to bed myself… and I realized there were three of them taking turns to sing their songs. There was one up in the tree at the side of our house, one in the orchid over my back fence, and one in a property off to the right of him. So I was treated with three times the lullaby I had hoped for haha!

  6. Shaunon 31 Dec 2015 at 8:40 pm

    We have a blackbird singing through to the early hours outside our house – but there are street lamps there!

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