Semi-orphaned fledgling blackbirds

Hi, new here and looking for advice.
A week or so ago there was a huge commotion in our back garden caused by a bunch of magpies trying to get the newly hatched blackbird chicks nesting in a disused wendy house. The blackbird parents were doing a fantastic job of chasing the mob away, but when I returned the next day the adult male had been killed, lying right outside the broken window of the wendy house. I couldn't see the mother bird anywhere.

I checked the nest without getting too close and found there were two blind and almost bald chicks - no idea if there had been more. While trying to find out what could be done for them if they were orphaned, I spotted the mother coming back with food. Since then I have just kept a daily check on them and put out mealworm, oats and bits of fruit, mainly to feed the mother who is probably exhausted doing all the feeding herself.

But now the chicks have grown, have a whole lot of feathers, and look like they will be ready to leave the nest within the next couple of days. My understanding is that normally the father takes over their care at this stage, and keeps an eye on them even for a couple of weeks even after they start to fly, but obviously he is not around.

So should I expect that the mother will not take on this role, and some human help will be needed when they hop out of the nest? Or is it likely that the mother will take on the father's role, as she is unlikely to be preparing for another brood?

Any advice is most welcome. I would just hate to see these chicks not make it now after all they and the mother have been through, and the extraordinary way she has continued to look after them. Thanks in advance.

  • I think if a bird has got this far with her youngsters she may well carry on. She will have put a lot of effort into getting this far and her drive will be to continue her blood line or is it only the males that have this drive ?


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  • Thanks Pete.

    That is the very thing I just don't know. She may not have the instinct to take on the male parent's role, might be driven to find another partner and start another (late) brood.

    Has anyone observed a single female blackbird still looking after her chicks once they have left the nest?
  • I'd be surprised if the female would just go and build another nest without a mate, and I doubt she'd leave her territory at this stage.

    Main reason I'm writing though, is I am wondering why the male died. Due you think it was as a result of the previous attack? Doesn't sound like a magpie came back the next day as if it did, why would the nest still have the chicks in and continue to until now?
  • In reply to Robbo:

    The male had its eyes pecked out, wounds to the neck area and feathers strewn everywhere. Pretty horrible sight TBH. I don't know what, apart from a magpie or other corvid, would have done that. It is possible the hole in the broken window was too small for a magpie to squeeze through.

    There is a remote possibility that it was another male blackbird, and it was attacked by both mother and father, but that doesn't explain the father's 9 day absence.
  • I agree that it was unlikely to be another blackbird. What about it having died the day/evening of the attack? Were both eyes missing?
  • I didn't check both eyes, just bagged him up. The magpie attack I witnessed was close to dusk, they seemed to successfully see the magpies off and I didn't hear any further commotion that evening, even with windows open. I didn't find him dead until late the next morning, but hadn't been down there in between so no way of knowing exactly when it happened.
  • In reply to GlenH:

    Ok thanks. I'm wondering if the body was there overnight, which would explain a missing eye or two. They tend to be amongst the first things to disappear when invertebrates get to work. Would be strange for a magpie to be chased off, come back and kill one adult then leave it lying there and leave both the potential food of that, and the nest it was trying to get to previously. They have very good memories and are known to keep coming back. The feathers strewn everywhere sounds more cat than magpie. Leaving the corpse does too. Very hard to prove one way or another. Your suspicion could well be right. Just got my doubts.
  • The neck wound looked very un-cat-like. It is fairly difficult for cats to get in here too, not impossible, but they very rarely get past the fencing.

    The point is he is gone, however that happened, and I want to find out if the female is likely to take on the male's normal parental duties when the chicks leave the nest. They look like they are  just about ready.

  • Wish I could reassure you Glen ... have several different Blackbirds early morning & picked up on trailcam, two or three females but always the male who feeds the youngsters who have just started appearing! Also the males who raid the hoggie biscuits to carry off to nests!


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