The starling is a bird of the passerine order, the starling family from the genus starlings. Latin binomial name — Sturnus vulgaris attributed to Carl Linney.

Species origin and description

Photo: Starling

Photo: Starling

The starling family Sturnidae is a large group with a diverse set of species. Most of them live in Eurasia and Africa. It is believed that these birds appeared and spread around the world from the African continent. The closest to the common species is the nameless starling. This species survived during the Ice Age in the Iberian region. The oldest known remains of the common starling date back to the Middle Pleistocene.

The common starling has about twelve subspecies. Some differ from each other insignificantly in size or color variation, geography of habitat. Some subspecies are considered transitional from one to another.

An interesting fact: When migrating, starlings fly at a speed of about 70-75 km per hour and cover distances up to 1-1.5 thousand km .

These noisy birds sing and make various sounds all year round. Their meaning may be different, except for songs, these are cries of threat, attacks, calls for copulation or for a general gathering, alarm cries. Starlings constantly make noise when they feed or quarrel, they just sit and talk to each other. Their constant hubbub is hard to miss. In cities, they try to take any secluded places on balconies, under windows, in attics, creating some problems for people. When flying in a large flock, their wings make a whistling sound that can be heard for several tens of meters.

Interesting fact: On the ground, the starling walks or runs, and does not move by jumping.

Appearance and features

Photo: Starling bird

Photo: Starling bird

The starling can be easily distinguished from other medium-sized passerines such as thrushes or funnel-bills. They have a short tail, a sharp beak, a rounded, compact silhouette, reddish strong legs. In flight, the wings are pointed. The color of the plumage from afar looks like black, but upon closer inspection, you can see iridescent tints of purple, blue, green, purple with white rowanberries. The number of white feathers increases by winter.

Video: Starling

On the neck of males, the plumage is more loose and fluffy, in females, feathers with sharper ends fit tightly. The paws are gray-reddish, strong, the fingers are strong, long with tenacious claws. The beak is sharp, dark brown, turning yellow in summer in females, and partially yellow in males with a bluish base. The wings of birds of medium length with a rounded or pointed end. The iris of the eyes is always brown in males and gray in females.

Interesting fact: During the winter, the tips of the feathers wear out, and the white patches become smaller, the birds themselves become darker.

Starling parameters:

  • in length — 20 — 23 cm;
  • wingspan — 30 — 43 cm;
  • weight — 60 — 100g;
  • tail length — 6.5 cm;
  • beak length — 2 — 3 cm;
  • paw length — 2.5 – 3 cm;
  • wing chord length — 11-14 cm

Birds molt once a year, by the end of summer, after the breeding season, it is at this time that more white feathers appear. While flying, birds flap their wings rapidly or hover for a short time without losing altitude. They take off from a place with the whole flock, during the flight they form a common mass or a line.

Where does the starling live?

Photo: What a starling looks like

Photo: What a starling looks like

These birds are found in Europe south of 40 ° N. sh., in North Africa, in Syria, Iran, Iraq, Nepal, India, northwest China. Some migrate from regions with a more severe climate, where not only frosts shackle the land, but there are also problems with food in winter. In autumn, when flocks of immigrants arrive from Northern and Eastern Europe, local inhabitants from central and western Europe move to more southern regions.

These birds have chosen the suburbs and cities, where they settle in artificial structures, on trees. Everything that can provide them with shelter and a home: agricultural and farm holdings, fields, thickets of bushes, gardens, forests without undergrowth, forest belts, wastelands, rocky shores, all these places can become a refuge for birds. They avoid dense forests, although they easily adapt to a variety of landscapes from marshy places to mountainous alpine meadows.

From the north, the distribution area begins with Iceland and the Kola Peninsula, to the south, the borders pass through the territory of Spain, France, Italy, and Northern Greece. Through Turkey, the southern borders of the range extend through northern Iraq and Iran, through Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northern India. The eastern habitat line reaches Baikal, and the western one captures the Azores.

On the territory of North America, southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, this species was introduced by man. There, due to its high adaptability to different conditions, it quickly multiplied and now occupies vast territories. York. For a hundred years, the descendants of the surviving fifteen birds settled, ranging from the southern regions of Canada to the northern regions of Mexico and Florida.

Now you know where the starling bird lives. Let's see what she eats.

What does a starling eat?

Photo: Starling in Russia

Photo: Starling in Russia

The menu of adult birds is varied, they are omnivores, but the main part of it — insects. Most often, these are pests of agricultural crops.

The diet consists of:

  • dragonflies;
  • moths;
  • spiders;
  • flies;
  • grasshoppers;
  • mayflies;
  • wasps;
  • bees;
  • ants;
  • beetles.

Birds feed on both adult insects and their larvae. They can extract worms, wireworms, insect pupae from the ground. They eat snails, slugs, small lizards, amphibians. They can destroy the nests of other birds by eating eggs. Starlings eat any fruits, berries, grains, plant seeds, food waste. Although these birds do not digest food with a high level of sucrose, they are happy to consume grapes, cherries, mulberries and can completely destroy the crop, flying into trees in whole flocks.

These birds have in their arsenal several ways to catch insects. One of them is when they fly all together, catching midges in the air. At the same time, birds use the technique of constant movement, that is, individuals from the “tail” of the flock tend to take a position in front. The larger the cluster, the closer the birds are to each other. From afar, the impression of a moving and rotating dark cloud is created. Another way is to eat insects from the ground. The bird randomly pecks at the surface of the soil, as if probing it, until it stumbles upon an insect.

Starlings are also able to expand the holes, increase the passages formed by insects and thus draw out various worms and larvae. Also, these birds, seeing a crawling insect, can lunge to catch it. They can not only peck insects from grass and other plants, but also manage to arrange a “canteen” for themselves on the back of grazing livestock, feeding on animal parasites.

Interesting fact: Just like starlings expand the passages of insects in the ground, they break through bags of garbage with a sharp beak, and then widen the hole, opening their beak, and then fish food waste out of the bags.

Features of character and lifestyle

Photo: Starling in nature

Photo: Starling in nature

Starlings live in large clusters, their numbers can vary in number at different times of the year. Sometimes, these are very large flocks, during the flight they look like a dense sphere, which either shrinks or expands as it moves. This happens without the participation of a clear leader, each of the members of the pack can change the trajectory of movement, influencing their neighbors. Such accumulations are a defense against birds of prey such as sparrowhawks or peregrine falcons.

In some cities and forest parks, such large concentrations of birds form huge flocks of up to one and a half million individuals, which is a real disaster, since droppings from such flocks can accumulate up to 30 cm. This concentration is toxic and causes the death of plants and trees. Large flocks can be observed in March on the island of Jutland and on the swampy coasts of southern Denmark. During the flight, they look like a swarm of bees; the local population calls such clusters the black sun.

Such phenomena are observed before the birds from Scandinavia start migrating to summer habitats in mid-April. Similar flocks, but in the amount of 5-50 thousand individuals, are formed in the UK at the end of the day in winter. The starling can make various sounds and songs, this bird is an excellent imitator. Starlings repeat the sound even after one listening. The older the bird, the more extensive its repertoire. Males are more proficient in singing and do so more often.

Fun fact: Female starlings choose partners with a greater range of songs, that is, more experienced.

Vocalization consists of four types of melodies that pass one into another without pauses. They can imitate the singing of other birds, the sounds of cars, metal knocks, squeaks. Each sound sequence is repeated several times, then a new set sounds. There are repeated clicks between them. Some birds have a repertoire of three dozen songs and fifteen different clicks. The main burst of vocalization is observed during the mating season, when the male tries to attract a partner with his singing, and also to scare away other applicants from his territory, although their singing and screams can be heard at any time of the year.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Starling Chick

Photo: Starling Chick

In starlings, a suitable place for a nest, a hollow, is looked for by males and begin to demolish dry and green parts of plants there. They often store aromatic herbs, perhaps to attract females or to repel parasitic insects. They make preparations, stocking up on building materials by the time the partner appears. Throughout this time, males sing songs, fluffing feathers on their necks, trying to lure the female. After the pair is created, she continues to build the nest together. Nests are created in hollows of trees, artificial birdhouses, in hollow stumps, in niches of buildings, rock crevices. The nest itself is created from dry grass, twigs. Inside is lined with feathers, wool, fluff. Construction has been going on for about five days.

These birds are monogamous, polygamous families are less common. Since starlings prefer to live in large colonies, nests can be located close to each other. In polygamous families, males mate with a second partner while the first one incubates the eggs. In the second nest, reproduction is lower than in the first. The breeding season is in spring and summer. The female lays eggs for several days. Most often, these are five bluish eggs. Their size in length is 2.6 – 3.4 cm, in width 2 & # 8212; 2.2 cm. Eggs hatch for two weeks, both parents do this, but the female is always on the nest at night. Chicks appear without plumage and blind, after a week they have fluff, and on the ninth day they begin to see clearly. For the first week, parents constantly remove the litter from the nest so that the humidity does not affect the condition of the chicks, which do not have good thermoregulation.

The chicks are in shelter for 20 days, all this time they are fed by both parents, even after the young leave the house, the parents continue to feed them for about two weeks. In the north of the range, one brood appears per season, in more southern regions – two or even three. In a flock, females left without a mate can lay their eggs in other people's nests. Chicks in colonies can move to neighboring nests, driving other babies out of them. About twenty percent of chicks survive to adulthood, when they are capable of breeding. The lifespan of a bird in nature — three years.

Interesting fact: The longest recorded lifespan for a starling was almost 23 years.

Photo: Gray Starling

The main enemies of starlings are birds of prey, although these passerines use effective flight tactics in a flock. Their method and pace of flight does not coincide with the flight of birds of prey.

But still, many predators pose a danger to them, these are:

  • northern hawk;
  • Eurasian sparrowhawk;
  • peregrine falcon;
  • hobby;
  • kestrel;
  • eagle;
  • buzzard;
  • little owl;
  • long-eared owl;
  • tawny owl;
  • barn owl.

In North America, about 20 species of hawks, falcons, owls, but most of all trouble can be expected from merlins and peregrine falcons. Some birds destroy starling eggs or chicks and take them from the nest. Mammals from the weasel family, raccoons, squirrels, cats can eat eggs and hunt chicks.

Problems for starlings are parasites. Studies have shown that almost all representatives of the sample made by ornithologists had fleas, ticks, lice. 95% were infected with internal parasites – worms. The chicken and pale passerine fleas also greatly disturb birds in the nests, but the starlings themselves are partly to blame for this. Capturing other people's nests, they get them with a full set of contents, including parasites. When a bird dies, blood-sucking parasites leave their host to find another.

The louse fly and the saprophagous fly gnaw out the feathers of their host. The brilliant scarlet nematode, moving in the host body from the trachea to the lungs, causes suffocation. Starlings are among the most infested birds, as they regularly use their own old nesting sites, or occupy other people's infested dwellings.

Population and species status

Photo: Bird starling

Photo: Starling

This species of passerine lives in almost all of Europe, with the exception of the Arctic, and is distributed in western Asia. In some regions, he arrives only for the summer period, in others, he lives permanently without seasonal migrations. Starlings were introduced and spread throughout North America, they are now found in Chile, Peru, Uruguay and Brazil, are in South Africa and are found on the Fiji Islands. They were introduced and settled everywhere in Australia and New Guinea. In Europe, the number of pairs is 28.8 – 52.4 million pairs, which is approximately equal to 57.7 – 105 million adult specimens. It is believed that about 55% of the total population of these birds lives in Europe, but this is a very rough estimate that needs to be verified. According to other data, in the first decade of the 2000s, the population of starlings worldwide reached more than 300 million individuals, while occupying an area equal to approximately 8.87 million km2.

In the second half of the 19th century, starlings were introduced to Australia to control insect pests, and their presence was also thought to be important for the pollination of flax. They created all the conditions for the birds to live, prepared artificial nesting sites, which the birds took advantage of. By the 20s of the last century, they multiplied well and began to occupy vast territories in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Starlings have long been excluded from the category of useful birds and began to fight their spread. Geographical and climatic conditions prevented this species from settling in other states. Also, strict control measures and the constant destruction of starlings reduced the livestock in Australia in the next three decades by 55 thousand individuals.

Interesting fact: Starlings are blacklisted 100 animals whose resettlement on new lands had negative consequences.

A noticeable increase in numbers over the past century and a half and the expansion of the habitat, the easy adaptability of these birds to different conditions has allowed the International Union for the Conservation of Animals to include this species on the list that causes the least concern. Intensive farming methods in Europe, the use of chemicals caused a decrease in the number of starlings in the north of Russia, the countries of the Baltic region, Sweden and Finland. In the UK, over the past three decades of the last century, the number of these birds has decreased by 80%, although there is an increase in some regions, for example, in Northern Ireland. This is due to the fact that the number of insects that young chicks feed on has decreased, and therefore their survival rate has decreased. Adult individuals can feed on plant foods.

Starling — a bird useful for agriculture, which is engaged in the destruction of harmful insects, can easily reproduce, adapting to different living conditions. With large accumulations, the food supply in the form of insects is no longer enough for her, the feathered one becomes a pest, destroying crops.

Rate article
Add a comment