City Smart Starlings


This crafty chap came to investigate my lunch yesterday. Starlings are actually one of my favourite birds, often to people’s surprise. But in my opinion the admiration I have for them has been well earned. Firstly, they are beautiful! Next time you see one take a closer look at that spectacular iridescent plumage. Secondly, they are masters of vocalisation; their repertoire is rich and varied with each male having a unique complication of 20-70 segments of song, which are sung in a predictable sequence and can be used to identify individuals. Starlings are wonderful mimics and will copy the calls of other birds, as well as animals including cats and frogs and some mechanical sounds! I was once fooled into thinking I heard a Curlew calling at a site miles inland, until I looked up and saw a cheeky starling singing from a weather vane! From this behaviour I was able to deduce that this individual bird had been on a trip to the seaside and met a Curlew! Thirdly Starlings are greatly adaptable, they can feed on both plant and animal matter. The intestine of a starling actually changes length in different seasons! This is in response to the changing proportion of plant relative to animal matter consumed; in times of greater plant consumption the starlings intestine gets longer to aid with nutrient absorption. Many Starlings have adapted to a city lifestyle, helped by their cosmopolitan eating habits. They have also converted their accommodation tastes from reed beds and thickets to bridges and buildings. Look out for the beautiful spectacle of a Starling murmuration; the amazingly controlled and undulating pre-roost flight of a Starling flock. Winter is the best time of year to see a murmuration as Starlings can roost in groups up to a million in the winter months! I have seen murmurations occurring around London bridges, so keep your eyes peeled at dusk!

Clever Starlings at heat lamp

These clever chaps have discovered that a heat lamp is the place to be in winter!

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