Common Blackbird

Chinese Blackbird
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus mandarinus, Changfeng Park, Shanghai. (Craig Brelsford)
Common Blackbird
Common Blackbird Turdus merula intermedius, Xinjiang, May. (Craig Brelsford)

Range of Common Blackbird Turdus merula and its sister species spans temperate Eurasia. In China, Chinese Blackbird T. mandarinus mandarinus is in northern (Beijing), central, southwest, and southern China, including Hainan (winter only), also Taiwan (rare winter visitor). Common resident Shanghai, from suburban areas to small parks deep in urban core. Tibetan Blackbird T. maximus occurs in southern and southeast Tibet; Chinese Blackbird T. mandarinus sowerbyi inhabits central Sichuan; and Common Blackbird T. merula intermedius ranges into Xinjiang. HABITAT & BEHAVIOR Wooded areas, from forests (especially deciduous forests) to parks and gardens, to 4000 m (13,120 ft.). Birds in northern part of range and at altitude migrate south or downslope for winter. Often on ground, foraging in leaf litter for invertebrates and berries. Also feeds and roosts in canopy. ID & COMPARISON Plumage of males uniformly black, distinguishing them from Grey-winged Blackbird T. boulboul and White-collared Blackbird T. albocinctus. Female blackish-brown with paler throat, diffuse spotting on breast, and dark bill. Juvenile like female but with some mottling on underparts and faint tawny streaking above. First-winter males have dark bill, a duller eye-ring, and a brown folded wing, contrasting with otherwise black plumage. Birdwatchers more familiar with T. merula note larger size of T. mandarinus and male’s shorter, less variable song. BARE PARTS Bill bright yellow or orange; eye-ring yellow (but in T. maximus, uniquely among species discussed here, eye-ring absent). Feet brown. VOICE Song sweet and fluty. Alarm call loud and rattling; distinct contact call, tink tink tink, often heard at dawn and dusk. Excellent mimic. — Craig Brelsford

THE TRUE THRUSHES OF CHINA has research on all 24 species in the genus Turdus in China. Click any link:

Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum
Tickell’s Thrush T. unicolor
Black-breasted Thrush T. dissimilis
Japanese Thrush T. cardis
White-collared Blackbird T. albocinctus
Grey-winged Blackbird T. boulboul
Common Blackbird T. merula
Chinese Blackbird T. mandarinus
Tibetan Blackbird T. maximus
Chestnut Thrush T. rubrocanus
White-backed Thrush T. kessleri
Grey-sided Thrush T. feae
Eyebrowed Thrush T. obscurus
Pale Thrush T. pallidus
Brown-headed Thrush T. chrysolaus
Black-throated Thrush T. atrogularis
Red-throated Thrush T. ruficollis
Naumann’s Thrush T. naumanni
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus
Fieldfare T. pilaris
Redwing T. iliacus
Song Thrush T. philomelos
Chinese Thrush T. mupinensis
Mistle Thrush T. viscivorus

See also:

Taiwan Thrush Turdus niveiceps


Daniel Bengtsson served as chief ornithological consultant for Craig Brelsford’s Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of China, from which this species description is drawn.

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