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Starling

Starling

Key facts

Scientific name: Sturnus vulgaris
Status: Resident breeding species and winter visitor

Breeding birds: 1.8 million

Conservation status: Red
Length: 21 cm
Wingspan: 37 – 42 cm
Weight: 75 – 90 g
Typical lifespan: 5 years

What do starlings look like?

In breeding season, adult male starlings have glossy black plumage with purple and green iridescence, and darker wings and tail. There are long feathers on the throat. The eyes are dark brown, the bill is yellow with a blue base, and the legs and feet are reddish-brown.

Female starlings are similar to males, but are duller overall, the throat feathers are shorter, the eyes are lighter, and the yellow bill has a pink base.

Out of breeding season, starlings’ feathers have white and buff tips, and they appear speckled. The bill turns dark grey-brown or black. Females are more heavily spotted than males.

Juvenile starlings are dull grey with darker grey patches.

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How do starlings breed?

Starlings breed between April and June and produce 1 or 2 broods a season. They may be monogamous or polygamous and nest in loose colonies on grassland, cliffs, coastal, and agricultural areas, as well as towns and cities.

The nest is placed in a hollow of a tree or a crevice in a building, and they will readily use nest boxes. It is built by the female alone from sticks, dried glasses, plant fibres, twigs, and paper, and lined with finer material such as feathers, wool, and leaves. The male will sometimes decorate it with leaves and petals.

Starlings lay 4 or 5 glossy pale blue eggs which are incubated by both male and female for 12-14 days. Chicks are altricial and covered in greyish-white down. They are fed by both parents and fledge at about 21-23 days after hatching. They reach sexual maturity at 2 years.

If a second clutch is produced this is due to polygamy and the male will offer little or no help in rearing these chicks.

What do starlings eat?

Starlings eat seeds, insects, spiders, worms, and fruit. Starlings that live on the coast will also eat crustaceans and molluscs.

Starling

Where can I see starlings?

Starlings can be seen all over the UK except in the very highest parts of Scotland. They are most abundant in southern England and in winter will gather in huge roosts.

What do starlings sound like?

Andrew Harrop/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Starlings form large flocks called murmurations to ward of predators and perhaps to keep warm at night and exchange information.

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2 Responses

  1. I live in St Austell in Cornwall as we have a resident flock of starlings who regularly gather in big flocks of well over 100+
    I have a bird feeding station right outside my window where I have a awesome view of my feeders consisting of 6 fatball , 2 peanut and 2 seed feeders plus several pots located in several wooden bird feeders. To fill them all I use the following recipe.
    4kg Tesco bird seed, 1/2 kg peanuts, 1kg peanut butter, 5x 250gm lard, 2 cups Calci worms, 1 cup sultanas
    I melt lard and peanut butter on the stovetop and add to the rest in a BIG bowl. Instead of making balls I cover the outside of the fatball feeders with cardboard and tape them shut and whilst the mixture is still warm I basically spoon/pour the mix into the feeders thus making a solid mass inside which can then be frozen into a solid mass
    The whole point of the above is that when I make a batch and have all the feeders full it takes the starlings (and to a lesser extent the Sparrows who have a loose flock of 10 or so) less than a week to eat ALL of the fatball feeders and and the wooden feeders though the starling do not go for the seed feeders as the sparrows do. Starting at just after dawn they visit numerous times during the day though I am not sure if the entire flock is on rotation(you can literally watch them queing up on the tv antenae) or it is a select number of them who havn’t told their mates.
    So down here in Cornwall we have a flock of well fed glossy Starlings who now completely ignore shop bought fatballs unless I break them up and add them to the mix but that defeats the point rather. As with the previous comment I totally enjoy watching these birds scrapping and bullying each other, one time I put out a bowl of just Calci worms and there was hell up.
    If Jean travelled down from Staffordshire then her dream of seeing a Murmuration may well come true.

  2. I love starlings soooo much. They steal all the bird food make lots of noise and frighten the other birds away but they’re so cheeky and beautiful in the sun light (when summer finally comes lol).

    My dream is to see a murmuration. I’ve seen videos on them flying over the sea but never iin real life

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