I thought that the blackbirds had finished their moult, but it seems that only their tail feathers have been replaced and the rest of their feathers have in recent days become decidedly scruffy. Like the robin during its moult, the blackbirds are eating a lot and gobble up both the mealworms and the oatmeal bedding which we mix in with them.
Both birds often visit and eat together, but they are not relaxed dining partners and clearly in competition with one another. Earlier in the year when they were breeding, the male deferred to the female and waited until she had eaten before stepping forward, but now they both eat at the same time, cramming in as much as they can.
It's like watching competitive speed eaters and one wonders at what point they'd consider they had eaten enough. The robin seems very restrained in comparison to these two, waiting between worms and seemingly considering how much is enough. The blackbirds don't stop until every last morsel is gone.
Smart and fast
In the last week of August, as the robin went through the moult, its feathers looked thin and unkempt, but this has changed. Not only does it look smart and brightly coloured, it appears to be flying a great deal faster than previously and I like to think that, whether it is aware of it or not, it feels well. Once the blackbirds have finished the moulting process, it will be interesting to see if they also fly faster.
Once their new feathers are grown, I imagine they will be taking time to go further afield to feast on the natural abundance of the local hedges, for the hawthorn and pyracanthas are heavy with fruit this year. Already the blackbirds who live in the garden have begun stripping the grapes from the vine, though they are not yet ripe. If we are to have any grapes ourselves, we must consider how to deal with this. I am loathe to put out a net, but a change in training the vine may help to make the grapes less accessible.
After I wrote the last blog about robins not living long, I looked into lifespan records that don't just take the average age of birds to see what the records were. Robins are commonly said to live about 13 months but I’ve discovered that if a robin gets through its first year or so, it can live quite a bit longer. Records for the two oldest ringed robins show one of 19 years, 4 months, in the Czech Republic and another of 17 years and 3 months, in Poland. ‘Our’ robin may be around for a while yet!