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Starling

Description


Starlings are small to medium-sized passerine birds. They occur naturally, from Europe, Asia and Africa, to northern Australia and the islands of the tropical Pacific.

Starlings have strong feet, their flight is strong and direct. Their preferred habitat is fairly open country, and they eat insects and fruit. 

Starlings do live around human habitation, and are effectively omnivores. Living off, mostly insects (especally crane-fly larvae), fruit and seeds, mostly on ground, often near cattle  Plumage is typically dark with a metallic sheen. Most species nest in holes, laying blue eggs.

Noisy and gregarious, starlings spend a lot of the year in flocks. Still one of the commonest of garden birds, its decline elsewhere makes it a Red List species.

 

Quick Facts


Number in Britain
9.5 million

Conservation Status UK
Red

Status in UK
Resident Breeder, Passage/Winter Visitor

Length
22 cm

Wingspan
40 cm

Weight
78 g

Habitat
Farmland, woodland, towns

Egg Size
30x21 mm

Egg Weight
7.0 g

Clutch Size
4-5 eggs

Incubation
12-15 days

Fledging
19-22 days

Number of broods
1 or 2

First clutches laid
Mid April

Age at First Breeding
2 year

Typical Lifespan
5 years

  • At the beginning of the 19th Century, European starlings were quite rare . After that, they underwent an improvement numbers, and were one of Britain's most widespread and common birds.  However, the species has more recently suffered a striking turnaround; since the 1980s, the starling has decreased severely, giving great cause for concern.
  • The greatest declines of a shocking 92% have occurred in woodland. On farmland declines of 66% have occurred.
  • The dramatic decline of this species, is thought to be due to the widespread loss of permanent pasture, an important feeding environment, as a result of intensive farming.
  • The starling is a sociable bird; this is particularly in evidence during winter, when they feed in flocks and often roost in huge numbers. Towards dusk, huge flocks often form near the roost sites, with birds preening, singing and resting before flying into the roost. This is a spectacular sight, involving a swirling mid-air display of synchronized movements.
  • Starlings have a varied and complicated song, and have been known to insert sounds from their surroundings into their own calls, including car alarms, and human speech patterns. The birds can distinguish specific individuals by their calls, and are at present the subject of research into the development of human language.
  • After centuries of living in areas in Europe, this species adapted to American cities after 100 birds were let go in Central Park, New York City, in 1890.
  • Starlings belong to the family of birds which includes vocal mimics known as myna birds.
  • Their beaks are short, and are designed to open with force, different from other birds that have stronger muscles to close down their beaks.  The strong opening beak is an adaptation for probing in the soil for insects and worms, pushing rocks and soil out of the way.
  • Starlings are monogamous
  • Starlings cause complaints by getting into bins, competing with “desirable” birds at feeders and getting stuck in chimneys and metal flues.

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