Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Three black birds turning leaves

The layer of fallen leaves under trees hides treasure for many birds this time of year: earthworms, woodlice, springtails, sprouting seedlings and more. I have filmed three bird species turning leaves in the park, each showing a different style: the Carrion Crow, slowly turning and tasting tidbits; the Blackbird energetically using its whole body, almost jumping, relying on an element of surprise, the moorhens looking like they are removing a nuisance from their way. Here you can watch the three clips.

Blackbird leaf turning

Moorhens leaf turning

Carrion Crow leaf turning


  1. Wonderful videos of foraging behaviour.

    The use of leaf blowers in parks to remove leaf litter, often even inside shrubberies, is a threat to birds that forage in the litter. In Kensington Gardens the number of Blackbirds fell by 75% between two single-species counts carried out in 1994 and 2011. In the 2011 count only 18 Blackbird territories were found in this 270-acre (111 ha) area.

    In this park in particular, much harm has been done by a mistaken policy of tidiness. The park authorities felt that the dead leaves in the shrubberies looked untidy, so not only did they blow them away, they laid down a mulch of half-rotted leafmould made from the leaves of previous years -- they are no longer allowed to put debris in landfill or burn it, and the buildup of leaves has been a problem. This substance, rich in nitrates and phosphates, encouraged a rapid growth of nettles and thistles which in some years has exceeded 8 ft (2.5 m) in height. In areas where the leaf litter has been left alone, these plants are far fewer and smaller.

    Vigorous protests have at least stopped them from spreading this stuff in some places, though not in the more formal shrubberies, from which ground-feeding birds have been almost entirely driven away.

    1. Hi Ralph, I completely agree with your assessment of leaf blowers, what a waste! I haven't seen them used in the park (yet!) but I agree that waiting for the earthworms to do their job would be much more environmentally friendly and keep more birds busy.