Our Beautiful World

Starling, Stær, Sturnus vulgaris  

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nh/birds1 surtmigr

Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
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The Starling is sometimes regarded as a bit of a pest in both town and country but around 1800 it was virtually extinct in Scotland.
It had spread throughout Britain by the middle of the 20th century and today can still be seen in enormous flocks particularly in autumn and winter. It is at this time of year (August to March) that resident British birds are joined by migrants from north and
north-east Europe.
There is now some concern that numbers of starling are declining steeply and BTO surveys show that numbers in Britain have fallen by about 66% since the 1970s. This is largely due to the changing agricultural landscape with less permanent pasture and mixed farming reducing the supply of earthworms and leatherjackets on which the Starling feeds.
The Starling has a range of plumages. Its breeding plumage is shown in the first photo taken in May when the body plumage has very few spots. This is because they have worn off as the feathers brush up against the entrance to the nest hole.
Photos 2, 3 and 4 were taken in December when the plumage is fresh after moulting and shows the V-shaped spots.

Photo © Jørgen Scheel
Although these 3 photos were taken on the same day in December, they show a variety of bill colours ranging from the full breeding bill colour of yellow with a pale base through to dark.
The fifth photo was taken in September and shows a juvenile moving into 1st winter plumage.

In flight it has pointed wings and a short tail.
The Starling has a wide variety of songs and calls and is an excellent mimic of other birds as well as frogs, cats and other animals.

Photo © Jørgen Scheel
Photos 7 and 8 were taken in Shetland and are of the sub-species S. v. zetlandicus or "Shetland Starling". These are slightly larger than the nominate sub-species with a longer, broader based bill. The juvenile plumage is darker.
There is a discussion about "Shetland Starling" in McGowan, R.Y., Clugston, D.L. & Forrester, R.W. 2003. Scotland's endemic subspecies. Scot. Birds 24: 18-35
text ag

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