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 ?


    Birding is for everyone no matter how good or bad we are at it,enjoy it while you can

  • 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 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.
  • 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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  • Hi
    On a similar note to this. We have 2 baby blackbirds in our garden. One seems quite in tune but the other seems a bit not fully aware.
    The latter one just hops around eating the food I’ve left. From bread, nuts, seeds, sunflower chips and meal worms soaked in water.
    But tonight I went back to check on the hedgehogs and she’s just sitting in the middle of the garden looking dopey.
    She let me pick her up. She’s not showing any sign of injury but doesn’t really want to fly. And during the day there’s been no sign of any parents. We’ve had several mature blackbirds around but they’ve all gone awol. We also have several neighbours cats too around.
    So I popped her on the bird table. She seems to have gone to sleep there now.
    What else can I do? Thanks.
  • Hi Dalavich, you did the right thing to leave the juvenile bird in a safer place but outside where the parents will be able to see it, all too often, people who mean well pick birds up and taken them indoors when they are not injured and risk the parents abandoning the chick; as with nature, the parent birds will do a better job than any human could. Even though you haven't seen the parent birds around they could still be there even if the chicks are now independent and can feed themselves. At this time of year many adult birds are less visible as they go through the annual moulting process exchanging worn out feathers and growing new ones which can make them a little more vulnerable to predation so they tend to stay a bit more hidden. There are many reasons a bird may appear to be a bit lethargic. Best advice is watch from a distance and hopefully it will eventually be ready to fly. As for food supply you offer, sounds a good selection but I would leave out the bread; soaked raisins are also ok for blackbirds. Good luck and hope this youngster survives ok; nature can be hard at times as many chicks don't make it to adulthood but you've given it the best chance.


    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again"