Starlings

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So, why feature a European species in consecutive posts, a species considered by many to be an invasive nuisance? I guess because I have the means, opportunity and motive. Even though they number in the millions (all originating from 100 birds released in New York City in the 1890s), this is the first time that I’ve seen starlings at the feeders for any length of time. And, to quote Cornell’s All About Birds fact sheet, “…they’re still dazzling birds when you get a good look”!

The aesthetic appeal of a starling lies in the striking contrast created by white-tipped, black feathers – the winter plumage.

 

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Most of the white spots will be gone by the summer breeding season, a phenomenon referred to as “wear molting”. The spotted feathers aren’t replaced, the white tips simply wear off.

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Starlings can be aggressive and sometimes compete with native birds for cavity nest sites. In this instance, they met their match: a Red-bellied Woodpecker fended off three starlings (one above, out of the frame) for feeding rights to a block of suet.

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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9 thoughts on “Starlings

  1. Nick, I absolutely LOVE this post! That first photo is absolutely magical and perfect in so many ways, the detail of the different colored feather tips, the single outstretched wing. And then the photo of mum with food at one hole and a baby screaming at her from the other cubby hole made me laugh! Fantastic photos!!!

  2. Wonderful details and descriptions of an invasive pest! They’re handsome in their speckled coats. It’s ironic that their numbers are up while in Europe the flocks decline.
    Coincidentally the red-wing starlings are gathering here – social activity after summer’s broods gather together with bands of juveniles and adults. Gregarious and chatty – broadwidth tweets!

    • Thanks Liz. The same Cornell site that I referenced in my post reports a 50% decline in starlings since 1966. Starlings spend a lot of time foraging on lawns, golf courses, etc. which leads me to think pesticides and herbicides are directly or indirectly involved. Re: gregarious and chatty, our red-wing blackbirds will be arriving circa March 1 and large, mixed flocks of chatty blackbirds will be announcing the arrival of Spring!

  3. I’ve never seen the white tips on our starlings here. I need to figure out if I’m not observing them closely enough, or if there is a difference in our western batch. Lovely shots and a great tribute to these aggressive nuisances. I feel much the same about our Rufous Hummingbird influx that crowds out our year-round Anna’s. They, too, are far more aggressive than the resident Anna’s. I suppose I shouldn’t expect wildlife to “play nice” though. 😀

  4. Fantastic post, Nick! The baby coming out of the birdhouse just simply made me smile. Wonderful images and narrative. I also love the Starling on the branch puffed out with the snow falling. 😊

    • Glad you enjoyed this series. A solitary fluffed bird in a storm really captures the mood and is one of my favorite winter portraits. Few of my memorable wildlife encounters are planned events and the invasion of hungry starlings in a snowstorm was yet another example. Thanks Jane!

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