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May 26, 2012 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: European Starling

The European Starling is fairly common bird. They can be found pretty much everywhere across North America; in cities, parks and backyards. Most of the year, with the exception of the breeding season, they travel in large noisy flocks. When you see a large group of birds roosting on the utility wires, they are probably starlings.

European Starling Fledgling

A few days ago I heard chattering and squawking noises by the bird feeders. Apparently the Starling that had been hanging around all winter and sleeping in the roost box decided he liked the neighborhood enough to nest nearby. Where, I’m not sure, but close enough to bring the new family of six little ones by for a visit.

Fledgling Starlings

Dad is very busy feeding the babies

Dad Starling was shoveling food into the wide open mouths of the newly fledged youngsters as fast as he could. Some were on the ground and some flew up to the feeder, but all had their mouths open and were making a lot of noise begging for food.

Males and females look alike. I assume it was dad because it’s usually the male that shows the youngsters where to find food. A second adult, presumably mom, showed up a few minutes later.

Fledgling Starlings

Gazing up at dad and the food

Fledgling Starlings

Fledglings check out the food on their own

Interesting Facts:

  • Starlings are a non-native bird in North America first brought here by Shakespeare enthusiasts in the nineteenth century in an effort to introduce every bird species mentioned in Shakespeare’s works.
  • The original 100 birds released in Central Park by the Shakespeare enthusiasts in the 1890s now number close to 200 million.
  • Starlings are great vocal mimics: individuals can learn the calls of up to 20 different species.
  • Starlings are strong fliers that can get up to speeds of 48 mph.
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    Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.
     
    © 2012 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.

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38 Comments

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  1. Louise / May 26 2012 2:30 am

    What fascinating starling facts! The Shakespeare connection is amazing. You got some great shots too. I noticed starlings feeding their young in our backyard just last spring, and I learn that the young are brown. I know that I shouldn’t really like starlings, but I enjoy their sparkly iridescence.

    Like

    • Leslie / May 26 2012 8:28 am

      I like them too but many people here think they are a pest. I only get annoyed when a large, noisy flock visits and eats all the food and bullies the little birds. Then I shoo them away. They are intelligent, adaptive birds and it’s not their fault someone transported them to a new home. I didn’t realize they were introduced to Australia too.

      Like

  2. Cathy / May 26 2012 3:05 am

    Wonderful series of photos, Leslie! I’ve been watching similar antics here with several species of birds.

    Like

    • Leslie / May 26 2012 8:29 am

      One of the reasons I leave my feeders up in the summer, even though the birds don’t need the extra food source, is to see the youngsters. I think the tired parents bring them to the feeders for a quick, easy meal, sort of like a McDonalds for birds!

      Like

  3. Christine Harding / May 26 2012 3:27 am

    What fantastic photos. We have lots of starlings in our garden (in Staffordshire, in the UK) and I know lots of people regard them as a nuisance, but they are beautiful, and they are fun to watch. I had no idea Shakespeare enthusiasts took them to America – I shall look at the in a completely new light now, and I’m off to find the relevant reference. How many other ‘Shakespeare species’ were taken to America?

    Like

    • Leslie / May 26 2012 8:25 am

      Good question! House Sparrows are the only other Shakespeare bird that I am aware of. Attempts to introduce bullfinches, chaffinches, nightingales, and skylarks were not successful.

      Like

  4. Paulita / May 26 2012 5:14 am

    I love the photo of the babies on the ground looking up at dad. The last one is charming too. Here’s Mine

    Like

  5. laurelrainsnow / May 26 2012 5:51 am

    What wonderful photos and facts! It’s always a great surprise to find out even more new things about the bird population. Thanks for sharing, and here’s MY SATURDAY SNAPSHOT POST

    Like

  6. Sheila (Book Journey) / May 26 2012 7:04 am

    Those are such great pics! Your camera gets such up close and clear pics! You could make a bird book!

    Like

    • Leslie / May 26 2012 8:31 am

      I have a 250mm zoom lens, but these birds let me get pretty close to them. I am almost positive these are the same starlings that have been hanging out at my feeder all year, so they don’t fear me.

      Like

  7. kaye / May 26 2012 7:07 am

    They sure can do a lot of squawking. Some days it sounds like abird convention in our back yard.
    Terrific photos, Leslie!

    Like

    • Leslie / May 26 2012 8:32 am

      Their range of sounds is remarkable. Sometimes the tree sounds alive with squawking, and other times they sing.

      Like

  8. BermudaOnion / May 26 2012 7:20 am

    At what age can they get food on their own? The fledglings look as big as the parents so I’m amazed they’re still feeding them.

    Like

    • Leslie / May 26 2012 8:33 am

      Isn’t it funny to see the parents feeding these huge babies! They eat on their own after a week or two.

      Like

  9. Lisa@ButteryBooks / May 26 2012 7:20 am

    Great shots! So cute.

    Like

  10. Diane@BibliophilebytheSea / May 26 2012 8:37 am

    Leslie, you really should be working for national Geographic. You captures are always so amazing. Love these.

    Like

  11. lakesidemusing / May 26 2012 9:25 am

    Stunning photos! I didn’t know starlings were non-native – the Shakespeare connection is a fun fact to have stored away. Hope I can use it some day!

    Like

  12. Susan / May 26 2012 9:41 am

    Damn starlings! They hog the food at the feeders when they pass through this area … their flocking behavior is so fascinating isn’t it? You’ve managed to melt my heart with that first photo, though. Too cute …

    Like

    • Leslie / May 26 2012 10:34 am

      They eat fast and they eat everything. I prefer they visit me in small numbers.

      Like

  13. Suko / May 26 2012 9:49 am

    Leslie, these photos are truly wondering. I really think you should publish a book about birds, with these photos and many others you’ve taken. They are superb and informative. 🙂

    Like

    • Leslie / May 26 2012 10:35 am

      Thanks. I’m thinking maybe something smaller than a book… like a calendar.

      Like

  14. Suko / May 26 2012 9:50 am

    Oops–I meant to say “wonderful” of course.

    Like

  15. Alyce (@AtHomeWithBooks) / May 26 2012 10:54 am

    I had heard they were non-native and that they are generally disliked, but I still enjoy seeing them in my backyard (and my cats certainly do too). 🙂

    Like

  16. Patti Smith / May 26 2012 11:27 am

    Funny! If you hadn’t told me that the fledglings were feeding I would’ve thought they were yelling at each other 😉

    Like

    • Leslie / May 26 2012 1:02 pm

      They may have been yelling at each other too… there was lots of jockeying for position to get the next bite.

      Like

  17. Amy Peveto (@AmyPeveto) / May 26 2012 12:25 pm

    I love the first picture in particular. I can just imagine: “I’m hungry! Gimme food!” 🙂 I also like the one of the three of them on the ground looking up. I bet some funny dramas will unfold in your backyard this summer.

    Here’s my Saturday Snapshot. Have a wonderful weekend!

    Like

    • Leslie / May 26 2012 1:04 pm

      And they kept this up for an hour, and then returned later for more.

      Like

  18. wldmtngrl / May 26 2012 12:26 pm

    I have no idea if we have Starlings here in the Sierra foothills. Your photos are amazing and so is your knowledge.

    Like

    • Leslie / May 26 2012 1:04 pm

      According to my range map they are everywhere and since they eat most anything and will nest in any cavity large enough to accommodate them, habitat isn’t much of a factor. So I’m pretty sure you have them too.

      Like

  19. stacybuckeye / May 26 2012 1:23 pm

    That first photo is so precious!

    Like

  20. Nise' (Under the Boardwalk) / May 26 2012 1:29 pm

    I was watching a bunch of them yesterday. Not sure what the issue was, but they were noisy and moving from one branch to another. At times it looked like a few were fighting with each other.

    Like

  21. Lisa H. (@AliveonShelves) / May 26 2012 2:22 pm

    Those are great photos! And it’s always good to see an involved dad. 🙂

    My Snapshot

    Like

  22. cherylmahoney / May 26 2012 3:23 pm

    That is such a fantastic story about how starlings got to North America! I knew Shakespeare fans were enthusiastic, but…!

    Like

  23. zaraalexis / May 26 2012 6:35 pm

    I especially love the last photo. What an excellent of captures! Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  24. Bev@My Reader's Block / May 26 2012 7:10 pm

    I knew that starling weren’t native to North America, but I never knew about the Shakespeare connection. I always learn something when I stop by to view your pictures. Great pictures!

    Here’s my Snapshot.

    Like

  25. Carol / May 29 2012 2:38 pm

    Great photos! and thanks for all the facts.

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. Weekend Birding: Coping With The Cold | Under My Apple Tree
  2. Weekend Birding: Winter Birdbaths | Under My Apple Tree

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