Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Starling
(Church-Martin, English Starling, Eurasian Starling, European Starling, Purple-Winged Starling, Starling, Poor-man's Myna)
Photograph © Suzanne Harris
Croir - Great Bernera - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
29th August, 2008
Our Starling photographs
- Sturnus vulgaris
- Gaelic: Druid
- UK: Resident Breeder, Passage/Winter Visitor
- UK: RED LIST. 804,000 territories RSPB 9.5 million birds (Summer) BTO
- WI: Abundant resident breeder (10,000+ breeding pairs)
- Breeding: Colonies. Nest made of grasses. Prefers natural cavities but opportunist for any suitable space. Lined hole in tree or building. Lays 4-7 pale-blue eggs. Europe, Asia, (Introduced to North America, Australia, Asia, North Africa)
- Winters: South to Africa, Asia. Winter late-afternoons many flocks join together forming enormous roosts of birds
- Habitat: Woodland, plantations, farmland, cities, towns, villages, reed beds
- Diet: Omnivore: Mostly insects in flight or grubs, earthworms etc by probing ground. Sometimes feeds on invertebrates in the wrack at the shore. Also fruit & seeds.
- Shiny black with a sheen of purple, green & bronze. Much spangled with white in winter (which wears away). Adult males less spotted below than females. Juveniles grey-brown. (Resembling adults by 1st winter (head usually having some remnant brown colouring in early winter). Strong pinkish-red legs.
Narrow conical sharp-tipped bill. Female's in summer is yellow. Male's in summer is yellow with a blue-grey base. Both sexes inc juvenile's black in winter. Flight fast & direct. Jerky walking. Noisy & gregarious spending much of the year in flocks.
Maximum recorded age 22yrs 11mths. Typical lifespan 5yrs
- Listen to a Starling (RSPB site)
- Similar birds: Blackbird
Both sexes the sing, the song is being a comination of whistles, clicks, and gurgling noises. The Starling is also an superb mimic and will include the calls of other birds and sounds made by ponies, telephones, and car alarms etc.. It can learn to imitate all types of sounds and speech and has been called the Poor-man's Myna.
The number of Starling territories in Britain has declined drastically by over 50% since the early 1990's hence the bird being on the RED LIST although it is still one of the most common garden birds.
Most birds have stong muscles to close their bills but a Starling's works in a different way. They have muscles that force open their bills with force which enables the bird to move small rocks and make holes in compacted soil. This is called open-bill probing and makes it possible for Starlings to extricate worms and grubs from underground.
In spring Starlings develop the iridescent sheen of their breeding plumage, they become glossy green on the head, belly and lower back, bronzy purple on the neck to upper chest and back, andpurplish on their flanks.
In late July after the breeding season, Starlings begin to moult, and their new plumage is shiny black, glossed purple or green, and spangled with star-like white or buff tips to the feathers. By spring these white dots wear away.
Starling records in the Western Isles
Abundant resident breeder (10,000+ breeding pairs)
(some consider these to be the nominate race Sturnus vulgaris vulgaris, others believe them to be Sturnus vulgaris zetlandicus the Shetland race)
Source: Outer Hebrides Bird Report (2001)
On the chart below the darker the shade of blue the more abundant the Starling is during a month or the more likely you are to see it.
(Source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)
Other local bird photographs
Sources of information for the bird sightings section
Debbie's online photo album