Gregarious and widespread, starlings are one of the most common British garden birds. Smaller than blackbirds, their plumage is glossy with iridescent green and purple in the summer, turning darker in the winter, with white speckles. On the ground, they walk with a curious waddle, but their flight is fast and direct, aided by the pointed, triangular wings. The female and the male are virtually indistinguishable.
How can I attract Starlings to my garden?
Starlings are omnivorous, happy to eat almost anything from a variety of fruits, seeds and insects to worms and kitchen scraps. Assisted by the female, the male builds the grass nest in a cavity of a tree, wall or a building. Normally one brood is produced in April or May, consisting on average of four to seven glossy, pale blue eggs. The fledglings leave the nest at three weeks of age.
Autumn sees the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, here to overwinter in large communal flocks consisting of thousands of birds. Returning to their roosts at dusk, starlings provide a spectacular sight in the sky by performing complex aerial acrobatics, known as murmurations. The reason for this behaviour has mystified biologists for centuries, but it is generally believed that by flocking together in this manner, they aim to protect themselves from predators such as hawks and peregrine falcons.
Despite their widespread presence in Britain, starling numbers have declined in recent times by about 70 per cent and they are now a Red List species of conservation concern.
Written by Niina Silvennoinen, DWT Volunteer
Watch out for...
...roosting flocks over reed beds, for example on the edge of Poole Harbour, but other plants will do as a substitute. Last winter a flock roosted in a large clump of bamboo in Corfe Mullen, which was subsequently cut down. If you are lucky enough to have starlings roosting on or near you, enjoy one of nature’s spectacles while it lasts as the birds will disperse in the spring.
About Dorset Wildlife Trust www.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk
Dorset Wildlife Trust was founded in 1961 to protect the wildlife and natural habitats of the county and now has over 25,000 members and manages over 40 nature reserves. Most are open daily and there are visitor centres providing a wealth of wildlife information at Brooklands Farm, Lorton Meadows, Kingcombe Meadows and Brownsea Island Nature Reserves, The Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve and the Urban Wildlife Centre at Upton Heath Nature Reserve. The largest voluntary nature conservation organisation in Dorset, DWT plays a key role in dealing with local environmental issues. It leads the way in establishing the practices of sustainable development and engaging new audiences in conservation, particularly in the urban areas.