Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

 

Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family:    Sturnidae
Size:    Length: 6 to 8.5 inches (15 to 22 cm)
Weight: 2.5 to 3 ounces (71 to 84.2 grams)
Diet: Mainly insects, as well as seeds, fruit, mealworms and grain
Distribution: Australia, New Zealand, Africa, North America, Europe and some West Indian islands
Young:  4 to 7 chicks, 1 to 3 times per year
Animal Predators:  Domestic cats, bobcats, owls, raccoons, foxes, hawks and snakes
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Chick  Group: Murmuration
Lifespan: Average 3 years in the wild to over 20 in captivity

 

Facts/Trivia:

        These birds are also known as European starlings, because of their place of origin.

        They are wonderful mimics, often imitating other birds or even barking dogs.

        Because of their friendly, entertaining natures and talent for mimicry, starlings have been popular pets as far back as ancient Rome.

        A pet starling in the U.S. can whistle the melodies of several songs, including the theme to the Andy Griffith show.

Description

These birds are black in colour, with beautiful green and purple iridescent highlights. In the fall, their feathers are tipped with white and buff, which gives them a speckled appearance. Starlings are the only black-coloured birds in North America with a yellow bill (although it gets dark in the fall). Starlings have a short, square-shaped tail, a stocky body and short, pointed wings, which are pale grey underneath. 

 

Habitat

Common starlings are found from Europe to Africa, east as far as western China and India, and in New Zealand and Australia. They have also been introduced to North America, occurring from Alaska and the Northwest Territories south to Mexico. Starlings prefer to live in or near towns or cities. The majority of starlings fly south in enormous flocks in anticipation of winter, resting in trees at night.  

 

Feeding Habits

At least half of their diet consists of insects, making them valuable birds to keep the insect population in check, especially for gardeners and farmers. Seeds, fruit and grain make up another part of their diets, although as omnivores, these birds will eat just about anything, including garbage. 

 

Reproduction

Breeding occurs from March through July, leading to a clutch that contains an average of five eggs, which take up to two weeks to hatch. Starlings make their nests in holes or cavities in trees, usually abandoned nests of other birds, or a hole in a house or under an eaves trough. Their nests are large, made of straw, grass, string and twigs, and lined with paper, feathers or other soft material. The female does most of the incubating, while the male brings food back to the nest for her. Once the young birds hatch, both parents tend to them. They bring food back to the chicks every 10 to 15 minutes at first. They keep the nest clean by removing the youngsters droppings, which are enclosed in thin sacs, from the nests and dropping them on the ground a short distance away. The chicks have light brown feathers and bright yellow bills, but their bills gradually darken as they reach maturity, although the following spring, it will turn yellow again. Young starlings begin to leave the nest at about 21 days of age, but will continue to be fed by their parents for another four to seven weeks.  

 

Behaviour

Starlings are very friendly and sociable birds, and form flocks whose members contain other starlings, or even birds of other species, including blackbirds, grackles and cowbirds. Starlings enjoy taking baths.

 

Conservation

In 1890, 100 common starlings were brought to New York City and released in Central Park by an industrialist who wanted to introduce all birds mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare to the New World. (Shakespeare makes a reference to a talking pet starling in HENRY VI.Their descendants can now be found in abundance all over North America, with an estimated population of 200 million. 

 

Sources

http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/sturnus/s._vulgaris$narrative.html

http://apus.apus.ru/articles/starling/starling_en.htm

http://www.starlings.net/

http://birds.cornell.edu/BOW/EURSTA/

http://home.earthlink.net/~kstarling/public/birds.htm

http://www.akra.gs.rl.no/copol/teaching_materials/fauna_flora/ireland/starling_sturnus_vulgaris.htm

http://www.yankeegardener.com/birds/starling.htm

http://www.tljones.co.uk/starling.htm

Eurasian Starling Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US

Kaufman, K. (2000) Birds of North America, Houghton Mifflin