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Blackbird Age ID?

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Old Saturday 15th August 2020, 11:04   #1
James Clements
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Blackbird Age ID?

This blackbird has been moulting from brown plumage to black during the last month, suggesting he was born this year (there is a pair of blackbirds who have had three clutches in our garden in Hertfordshire, UK between April and July this year). However, his beak is bright yellow, and all the bird books state that the beaks of the males turn from brown to yellow between November and March of their first year. Could it be that this bird was born in 2019 and kept brown plumage for its first year (I've read that sometimes happens). Any advice much appreciated. The three photos show the gradual change from brown to black plumage. Many thanks
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Old Saturday 15th August 2020, 16:45   #2
Deb Burhinus
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I’m by far an expert in aging passerines (so anyone feel free to correct me) but it’s a wet Saturday afternoon and I have some time!

This is 2cy (hatch year 2019) as you concluded. Not only the bright yellow bill but your bird was showing moult limits when you took the first photo (date?)

Post Juvenile moult (June-August 1cy) varies in Blackbirds but is generally restricted to marginal coverts (MaC), median coverts (MeC) a few or all (variable) greater coverts (GC) and sometimes carpel coverts (CC). The alula (Al) and tertials (T) remain unmoulted in about 70-75% of birds. Retrices (R) generally remain unmoulted. Secondaries (S) variable, corresponding to the GC and T that are moulted. Primaries (P) and primary coverts (PC) are usually all retained. Therefore the extent of post-juvenile moult varies amongst individuals but all will have moult limits until the following summer (2cy).
source: Jenni & Winkler 1994 p109

In your bird in the third image, the brown feathers show the moult limits from 1cy post juvenile moult and it is already replacing its primaries and secondaries (the inner S and inner P now growing in). (The body feathers would have been renewed in the post-juve moult but are ‘worn’ here and abraded and gradually being replaced). The innermost juv GC shows a typical pale shaft streak and there are moult limits on the some of the other wing coverts. The tail is still mostly juvenile and worn but the new retrices are growing through.

The subsequent images shows your Blackbird completing its very first post-breeeding moult.

Now I’m going to make a cup of tea!
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Last edited by Deb Burhinus : Saturday 15th August 2020 at 16:48.
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Old Sunday 16th August 2020, 05:45   #3
Deb Burhinus
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BTW James, a very warm welcome to Birdforum. Hopefully this wasn't your first and last visit!
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Old Sunday 16th August 2020, 10:21   #4
James Clements
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Thank you so much for your helpful and thorough reply and welcome Deb! I'm really pleased to discover this site, and it certainly won't be my last visit.

We've always fed the birds, but it is only during lockdown whilst I've been working from home with my laptop in the garden that I've become fascinated by them. So much wonderful nature on the doorstep (I live in a small town). I've spotted 25 different bird species visiting our garden (I was surprised we had so many) and have enjoyed watching and learning about them. I still have so much to learn, but that is the fun of it. We've had a pretty tame male blackbird this year who would sing by the back door to get our attention for mealworms for his young. Seeing them with their young has been a joy, and, apart from the blackbirds, I've seen young coal tits, blue tits, robins, jackdaws, goldfinches, greenfinches, dunnocks and starlings. And of course a sparrow hawk who comes almost every day! Attached is a picture of some of our wonderful lockdown companions.
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Old Thursday 20th August 2020, 21:15   #5
James Clements
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This is him today, looking rather forlorn! I guess in another week or so he'll look brand new.
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