Nature Notes

Starlings - Birds With Attitude!

Starlings are not he most attractive species of birds that visit my garden here in rural Norfolk, but what they lack in cuteness is more than made up for by their comical behaviour.

They have a very characteristic waddle of a walk and will quickly usurp any other birds that stand in their way of a food source, including slightly larger birds such as blackbirds, and I regard them as the hooligans of all the different species of bird I see in my bit of England. At certain times of the year their favourite source of food are grubs called leather jackets (that go on to form caddis fly or daddy-long-legs), they use their long pointed beaks to probe deep into the ground, although how many grubs they actually find by instinctively doing this I do not know. As young starlings leave the nest they follow and beg the parent for food whilst making their presence felt by continually issuing a harsh squawk. Starlings are excellent mimics and make a series of random calls, including a long drawn out whistle, rather than any structured song.

The plumage looks basically black or brown from a distance, but when seen close up and in certain types and angle of light the purple and green iridescence is very noticeable and resembles how a layer of petrol on the surface water in a roadside puddle looks. So next time you see starlings in your garden take a few minutes to watch them, although they are not exactly cute they have plenty of attitude!