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I saw a male blackbird on top of a female with their beaks locked. What were they doing?

Sent in by Mrs Chantel England, Bedfordshire

The interaction you witnessed between these blackbirds seems to indicate fighting.

Fighting in birds is rare and generally related to breeding. If it is not fighting over a mate, it is fighting to secure or defend a territory to ensure a successful breeding season. Fighting between male and female birds however, is not as common.

Breeding in some species can be quite a brutal affair that resembles a fight. Mallard drakes will often pursue and harass the females so persistently they come close to drowning their prospective mates. Male collared doves can also be surprisingly vicious to females prior to and during mating. Blackbirds however generally save their aggression for rival males which makes your observation very unusual.

A possible explanation for the behaviour you observed is that the bird thought to be a female could actually be a male. This years male blackbirds will not have developed yellow beaks or eye rings just yet so can often be difficult to distinguish from females. They develop these distinctive features in time for the breeding season, usually late winter to early spring.

As some species start to reclaim breeding territories over the winter months, it is quite possible that the male blackbird was trying to see off a young rival that had designs on the territory.

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