Distinguished Author

Bocage-JV-Barbosa-du-1823-1.jpg

José Vicente Barbosa du Bocage
  (1823–1907).

A Portuguese zoologist and politician. He was the curator of Zoology at the Museum of Natural History in Lisbon. His work at the Museum consisted in acquiring, describing and coordinating collections, many of which arrived from the Portuguese colonies in Africa, such as Angola, Mozambique, etc. He published more than 200 taxonomic papers on mammals, birds, and fishes. In the 1880s he became the Minister of the Navy and later the Minister for Foreign Affairs for Portugal. The zoology collection at the Lisbon Museum is called the Bocage Museum in his honor. He was responsible for identifying many new species, which he named according to the naturalist who found them.


Species of the week

Common Blackbird

Turdus merula male

Turdus merula

Some facts about this bird:

Wingspan: 34–38 cm

Total length: 23.5–29 cm.

Weight: 80–125 g.

Habitat: Can exploit a large range of habitats including city centers, moors, woodland, gardens, copses, and parks.

Distribution: Breeds in temperate Europe, Asia, and North Africa; introduced into Australia and New Zealand.

Diet: Fruits, berries, earthworms and a large range of insects.

Surviving number: Abundant population.

Conservation status: Least Concern (IUCN 3.1).

First described: By the Swedish naturalist Linnaeus in 1758.


If you see a black bird pausing its activities to tilt its head to one side as if carefully listening to an oncoming sound, you may be looking at a Turdus merula. This is a common bird of medium size. The male, as the name suggests, is coloured in a glossy black with a yellow beak and eye rings while the female and young carry a slightly patchy brown colour, the young with lighter underparts. It sings a flute-reminding, melodious 'tseee' song and when alarmed, emits a loud, harsh 'pli-pli-pli'. Both sexes are territorial in the breeding season, with distinctive threat displays. The male's courtship display consists of oblique runs combined with head-bowing movements, an open beak, and a muffled low song. Blackbirds typically are loyal to the same mate until one of the pair dies. The female lays three to five eggs and the incubation lasts 12–14 days and the fledging takes another 10–19 days. Currently, nine distinct subspecies are recognised, each living in a different geographical range; other subspecies from tropical Asia formerly included in Turdus merula have recently been split out to Turdus simillimus (Indian Blackbird).


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