T is for Tricoloured Blackbird
This is rather a gorgeous-looking bird from North America – here is a male in a photo by Alan Vernon:
The tricoloured blackbird is not related in any way to the Old World blackbirds found in the British Isles, which are a type of thrush. This bird is a little smaller, and its feathers glossier.
It forms the largest breeding colonies of any bird in North America – but this unfortunately is the species’ achilles heel. They feed predominately on grains, and nest in silage fields – they are being decimated by herbicides and the silage harvesting that takes place while they are nesting. If they didn’t nest all in one area they would be safer – in almost literal fact they have their eggs all in one basket.
The female constructs her nest by dipping leaves in water and weaving them around upright plant stems – then she sticks it all together with wet mud in layers to hold her eggs and chicks safely.
The nestlings are fed by both parents for about 14 days, and they have a unique way of encouraging their chicks to leave the nest when they are ready – they coax them by flying temptingly away from the nest with a delicious morsel in their beaks, with the babies flying in pursuit.
These birds have suffered a huge decline and are now classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List for Threatened Species.
Here is my poem for them:
and also ironically
not blackbirds at all,
nesting in colonies
of thousands in flocks
be their downfall,
for what happens to one bird
happens to all.
© Liz Brownlee
Prose and Poem © Liz Brownlee, all rights reserved not to be used in any manner whatsoever without the permission of the author.