Starling

Sturnus vulgaris

21.5cm

Appearance

The Starling is a stout bird whose plumage varies across the seasons, and differs slightly between sexes in the summer/spring. At this time, males are rather dark overall with a green or purple sheen in sunlight, the bill is yellow with a blue base, and the legs are pink. Females resemble males, but they are spotted underneath and the base of the bill is a faint yellow. The sexes are similar in winter; the dark plumage is generously spotted, the bill is dark and the legs are brown. Juveniles are greyish brown but are quick to gain spots; they have a blackish bill and a pale throat.

Habitat

Feeding takes place on grasses, including domestic and urban lawns, and farmland. May also be found at rubbish dumps and strandlines.

Character

When it walks, the Starling can appear quite animated, as if it has a bounce in its step. When not breeding, it is a social bird, often feeding, roosting and bathing in groups. Starlings are capable of stunning aerobatics.

Food

Starlings seek leatherjackets and worms, and may catch insects while in flight. Also feeds on spiders, caterpillars and a range of invertebrate, as well as fruit.

Breeding

Female lays 4 or 5 eggs, which are incubated by both parents for 12-15 days; both parents feed the young. Young birds join other young Starlings in summer flocks. Mating pairs are flexible, with males sometimes having multiple females, and females sometimes leaving their eggs in the nest of other Starlings.

Population

A resident bird in Britain and Ireland, young birds may stray the furthest in the safety of their flock. The region receives some visitors in autumn, and these birds leave during the spring. Approximately 1.9 million pairs reside in Britain, and 250 000-500 000 pairs in Ireland.

Observation Tips

Observation is simple, as the Starling is so widespread and flexible in its habitat. Try and catch a glimpse of this bird in aerobatics, or in mimicry.

Voice

A clever mimic, the Starling has been known to copy chickens, alarms and sirens, among other things. Its own call is a ‘tchur’, and the song ranges from abrasive and rattling to a cheerful, whistling song, often with a ruffle of the feathers or wave of the wings.
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