British Bird of the Month: Starling

Member of Sturnidae (Starling) family

Characteristics

The Starling has the reputation for being one of the noisiest and most gregarious garden birds.

In differing light and time of year their plumage can show remarkable variations, from speckled in the winter to bright glistening and iridescent in spring, then to add to the confusion there is the pale drab brown of the young. Even their bill colour changes from winter grey to spring yellow with a blue base in males and a pink base in females

In flight, Starlings have pointed, triangular wings and fly fast and direct. When they come in to land they look a little like Harrier aircraft with slightly drooped triangular wings.

Starlings are great at mimics, often sounding like machines, or telephones and car alarms, and other birds such as curlews and Pied Wagtails.

What They Eat & What You Can Offer Them

Starlings are omnivorous feeding on insects, worms, snails, berries, fruit, scraps and suet, but their young are only fed on invertabrates.

They are often found commensal feeding with lapwings in wetland areas, where they feed on the food that the Lapwings have disturbed.

Starlings will eat just about everything you put out for them, in fact many people use feeders that keep starlings out to allow access for only smaller birds. However starling breeding numbers have decreased rapidly in the last 30 years, so make sure some food is left for them. They are now on the UK conservation red list.

Where They Live & How You Can Help Them

Starlings will use medium-sized nest boxes with a hole about 45 mm diameter. The 4-9 eggs take about 13 days to incubate. Leaving gaps in the eaves of outhouses can be inviting for starlings to nest.

And Finally……..

In the wintertime, starling roosts are often several thousand birds strong, but those that gather in reed beds, such as on the Somerset Levels, can comprise a few million birds (a murmuration). As the day draws to a close, the increasingly large flock darkens the skies as it swirls around like a swarm of insects, making this one of nature’s greatest spectacles

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