Updated: Jan 5
When I first heard “Blackbird” on an AM radio station in 1969, I focused on the birdsong
in the background at the end of the tune. I did not recognize the sounds as ones a red-winged blackbird, a bird which I heard and saw often as a child, would make. I learned later that the two birds are very different. McCartney’s blackbird, which sang at night, is more closely related to our Northern Mockingbird, the only bird that I have ever heard deliver a melodious concert in the dark..
Red-winged Blackbird song:
Northern Mockingbird singing at night:
"Blackbird,” a song by the Beatles from their double album, The Beatles, known as "the White Album,” was recorded on 11 June 1968 at Abbey Road Studios, a solo performance with McCartney playing a Martin D 28 acoustic guitar. The track includes recordings of a male common blackbird singing in the background.
The common blackbird (Turdus merula) is a species of true thrush, is all black except for a yellow eye-ring and bill, and has a rich, melodious song. This bird is very distantly related the American Red-winged Blackbird, which is not a thrush. A better comparison in both appearance and song is to the American Robin.
American Robin song:
Locally, we have a wide variety of black bird species: the common crow, the fish crow, the common grackle, the boat-tailed grackle, the brown headed cow bird, and the starling. Larger black birds include the anhinga, double-crested cormorant, American coot, black vulture, turkey vulture, smooth billed ani, snail kite, black skimmer, and black rail. All of these birds are initially seen as predominantly black, but a closer examination reveals a variety of colors from purple, blue, brown, bronze, to gray that emerge from the feathers to create an amazing palate.
Watching the day-by-day creation of Lynn’s recent watercolor of a male grackle offered dramatic testimony that black is only one color of many the grackle displays.