Jun 20 2013
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)