Suffolk blackbird thinks he is a migrant

MOST people might think blackbirds have rather uneventful lives as they hop about eating scraps.While other birds from abroad are well known to making winter trips to warmer climes, the humble blackbird always seems so much more of a "home bird".

MOST people might think blackbirds have rather uneventful lives as they hop about eating scraps.

While other birds from abroad are well known to making winter trips to warmer climes, the humble blackbird always seems so much more of a "home bird".

But one blackbird from East Anglia has been stretching his wings with regular trips to a popular holiday spot.

The bird has been tracked by the Thetford-based British Trust for Ornithology and has been found to be making regular trips to Devon.


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For two years, the bird, which has been ringed by the trust and is number CL98725, has been spotted in Thetford during the summer months and then in the same garden in Devon on Boxing Day.

It was first ringed as a juvenile in Thetford on July 5, 2003, and was then last seen locally on September 30.

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It was then spotted in a garden in Newton Abbot, Devon – 365 kilometres away – on December 26 and stayed there until February 14, 2004.

The blackbird was seen in Thetford again on May 29 last year, but on Boxing Day last year it was again seen in the Newton Abbot garden. It is still believed to be "on holiday" in Devon, having last been seen there on January 6.

Graham Appleton, of the British Trust for Ornithology said it was very rare for birds to travel so far in winter these days.

"We have been ringing birds since 1909 and we've had three blackbirds since then who have gone to that area from the East of England and none that have done the two way journey.

"It really is a very unique incident."

Mr Appleton said the bird could be one of a few blackbirds who still fly west during the winter in search of food.

He said: "When we used to have proper winters this wasn't a great place to be because the ground was hard and there was nothing to eat and a lot of birds would go west for winter.

"It is harking back to the olden days, blackbird used to be migrants and this one still thinks he is."

Although there is no chance the bird could be heading to Devon to spend Christmas with relatives, there is the possibility it is recreating the habits of its parents or grandparents, Mr Appleton said.

"The urge to migrate is a genetic trait so it could be that he is doing exactly what his parents and grandparents have done before.

"They are very traditional birds with travel, they go back again and again. It's a bit like going on holiday to Benidorm every year."

Each year about 800,000 birds are ringed in Britain and Ireland by British Trust for Ornithology volunteers as part of long-term research to monitor the health and movements of populations.

This particular bird is still young enough to keep making the trip for up to another ten years.

He could have flown the 365 kilometres (227 miles) in 12 hours.

n. Blackbirds are the most commonly reported garden bird - they are found in

98% of gardens

MIGRATION facts

n.Birds have an inbuilt compass to help with migration

n.Most birds migrate by night and use the stars to help them to follow the

right course

n.A Robin cannot tell which direction to migrate in if its right eye is

covered

n.About 15,000 ringed birds are reported to Thetford-based BTO each year

n.Birds from Britain have been reported in Australia, South America, Canada,

Siberia and Greenland, as well as all over Europe and. Africa

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