Spotting a starling
Starlings appear black from a distance but actually have shiny green and purple feathers. Their feathers are brighter in the summer and duller with white spots during the winter. Young starlings are brown with a pale throat.
Populations have declined by 80% since 1987, although there has been a small increase in the last few years. In the winter our resident starlings are joined by starlings migrating to the UK from Europe, increasing the population.
Starlings are very sociable birds living in loose colonies. They have a reputation for being greedy because they land on bird feeders in big groups and eat all the food in one go. They aren’t being greedy though; they have evolved to feed together with the other members of their colony.
They like to nest in the holes and crevices of trees but will also use a hole or cavity in a building. Males will build a nest from grass and leaves and then the female will line it with fine grass, moss and feathers.
In April all the females within a colony will lay their eggs within a few days of each other. When the baby birds hatch they are fed by their parents in the nest. They are ready to leave the nest at 3 weeks old, although their parents will feed them for another few weeks. The life expectancy of a starling is around three years.
In the spring starlings spend their time looking for insects such as leatherjackets – you might spot them poking their beaks into your garden lawn as they look for food. During summer and autumn months they eat more seeds and berries than insects.
They aren’t very fussy though – they have been known to eat large food scarps, such as chips and even tackle small lizards, newts and frogs!
Did you know…
On winter evenings starlings take flight together, flying together in a big group called a mummuration. They look as if they are performing an acrobatic dance across the sky – it’s a spectacular sight!
Starlings form a mummuration as a way of moving safely to their roosts for the night – moving with a big group of birds makes it harder for a predator to hunt them. It’s also thought they do this to benefit from the warmth of other birds and even exchange information!
Leave out fat balls, suet in blocks, pellets and fruit.
They will eat sunflower seeds and peanuts but you’ll need to chop them up.
In early spring leave out meal-worms which the adults will feed their babies.
Starlings like a nest box placed in a shady spot on a tree or building.
Make sure the entrance is bigger than 45mm.
Visit an RSBP Reserve
Visit somewhere with loads of birds! There are hundreds of nature reserves – find one near you on the RSPB website. (Takes you to an external site).