Female Blackbird taking adult Poplar Hawkmoth in Worcestershire

Graham Knight

(Little Comberton, Pershore, Worcestershire WR10 3EW)

The 29th July 2011 was a somewhat overcast but warm dry day in the village of Little Comberton near Pershore in Worcestershire (SO94, 28m O.D.). Having reason to examine the inside of a taxi parked in the village at 10.00 hrs BST, I observed a large hawkmoth clinging to the inside of the door frame. From its generally mid-grey colouring and reddish hind wing spots it was identified as a Poplar Hawkmoth Laothoe populi L. which is a localised widely-scattered species throughout the area.

While I was actively discussing the moth with a group of people a female Blackbird Turdus merula L. suddenly appeared and, walking between us, immediately took the moth in its beak and proceeded to walk away with it. Dropped once, the moth was retrieved and finally removed from the scene by the Blackbird which presumably consumed its soft parts.

Many recent summers in Worcestershire have been characterised by drought, of which the summer of 2011 was a more extreme example. This is well-known to have altered the habits and distribution of summer Blackbirds in the area. The few that remained became, in terms of food resources, more opportunistic or more specialised in locating and detecting less usual invertebrate prey. This included regular entry into outbuildings and greenhouses to search for spiders and entrapped flies. Although attest to the wide range of food taken by Blackbirds, this observation, reflecting the boldness and enterprise of one individual, seems worthy of publication.


Snow, D.W. & Perrins, C.M. 1998. The Birds of the western Palearctic Volume 2. Concise edition. Oxford University Press