How the blackbird came by its black suit and gold coloured beak (008)

A long long time ago there were many more white birds around than now. It is simply stupidity which made them black. In far gone times the blackbird was a beautiful white bird which sang one of the most enchanting songs of the bird world. We still enjoy those golden sounds, but the white colour has disappeared. How did this happen? Simply greed! Listen to this Celtic legend:

It was a bright cold winter’s day when the male blackbird saw the magpie return with a beak full of glittering jewels. The blackbird looked greedily at the sparkling stones. He wanted to have some too and so he asked the magpie where he’d found them. The magpie took the blackbird to one side and whispered: “To the north there is a deep cave. That is where the prince keeps his gold, silver and jewels. The prince is a good man and if you ask him, then you may be allowed to take a beakful of gold and silver. But beware, the cave is guarded by a dangerous dragon. Take care only to take those things from the cave which the prince points to!”

The blackbird bubbled with enthusiasm when he told his wife the news. “My dearest,” she said,”What do I need a gold necklace for? It will only get caught on branches. And isn’t a dragon like that rather dangerous?”  But her mate insisted on going and together they flew to the cave and cautiously entered the cave. Everywhere they looked there were sparkling piles of precious stones, gold and silver. The male blackbird’s greed got the better of his sense of caution and before he reached the prince at the back of the cave, he had already begun to pick out choice pieces from the mountain of gold. “Watch out!”shouted his wife to warn him of the shuffling noises coming from somewhere closeby. She then ran to the entrance. The dragon had woken up and was spewing fire in his rage. The blackbird screeched in fright and flew swiftly away. Although he managed to escape in the nick of time, he was blackened by the flames of the dragon. That is why to this very day the blackbird is completely black from top to tail. His beak filled with gold was burnt too, which is why the gold melted and remained permanently stuck to his beak. Ever since then the male blackbird has a yellow-gold coloured beak.

And what happened to the female blackbird? The flames of the dragon did not touch her, but the soot did. It is still visible in her coat of brown-black feathers. But because she was not so greedy as her husband, she kept her black beak.

The blackbird is one of the most common birds. In winter they only forage around in the grass and look for worms and insects among the fallen leaves and in the moss. In  spring, however, they operate in pairs. In the past they were shy creatures of the wood. These same shy birds are still there, but many of them have adapted to the human world. Blackbirds are early birds which go to bed late. In the spring the male birds are the first to sing their magnificent song before the sun rises. At dusk they are one of the last birds to sing as darkness falls.


© Els Baars,

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Els Baars