Bird's Eye View of Bute

The Starling

(1) Original
(1) Original
(2) Starling
(2) Starling
(3) Starling
(3) Starling
(4) Starling
(4) Starling

 

 

The Starling

Another visitor to our gardens is the Starlings. These are glossy black birds that have speckled breasts and heads during the winter, a yellow bill and red legs. They can be very noisy and aggressive, and walk with a waddling swagger.

 

They are very common and will be seen on most days looking for food, which can be seeds, fruit, caterpillars, leatherjackets (The larva of the crane flies and a serious agricultural pest) and ants, but will also have a go at your peanuts in your feeder, but they have a hard job holding on. They do like fat balls and will soon demolish one in record time. They are excellent mimics of many other birds and many other sounds. But my favourite is the Buzzard. Many a time I have heard what I thought was a buzzard calling, only to realise that it was the starling. Doing what it doe's best.
Their voice are trills and screeching calls, that is, when they are not winding you up with their vast repertoire of other noises. One of their best sounds many years ago was of the trim phone! Many are person would pick up the phone and find that there was no one there that is how good they are. If you watch them feeding you will notice that they keep their bills open as they probe the ground? This is so that they can see what they are eating, as their eyes can swivel forwards to feed, and backwards to look for danger. They can be solitary in your garden or in large numbers, feeding fast and furious then off to another one and start again. Then once they have had their fill, they may take to the skies and give us their excellent aerial display. There may be thousands in the sky at the one time turning as one without banging into each other; it is as though the leaders thoughts are sent to the rest of the flock making them fly as one. At times we have a flock of up to 150 that fly about Rothesay with their favourite area around the West Church Spire, there around dusk they fly in unison for about an hour before roosting.
They do give an impressive display much to the awe of the children and adults alike, but as I have not seen them for a while maybe they have found other digs. Many of you will remember the problems that Glasgow had with them many years ago, with umpteen thousands of them coming into roost in the city centre. The roofs, window ledges, streets and cars were covered with their droppings, which with the acid content were causing much damage to property and the like. Many ideas were thought up to get rid of them. Banging tin lids, which made them, produce more droppings. Fitting mirrors on the window ledges, which had the same effect. This was a big problem. If you were in Glasgow at this time you would require an umbrella to keep yourself clean.

Now they are all but gone, or maybe I am not there when it is time for them to roost. Anyway the fine buildings that they were ruining will last a lot longer with their absence... When that amount of birds are airborne and bucking and weaving, it is like a large cloud of smoke moving very fast, such is their tight formation. They are not the only birds to do this as waders are just as versatile as the starlings along with many other species around the world. They spend the winters in small flocks and are attracted to farms where cattle are being fed, and are also on the lookout for kitchen scraps. They do like close cropped grassland so Bute's vast amount of fields should suit them to the ground. (Pardon the pun).

 They are not the only birds that can mimic calls and other sounds. The jackdaw can produce words, as can parrots. And many other species imitate other birds. The starlings are closely related to the mynah birds, the master mimics, unlike them however they cannot imitate human speech. At least not at the present time?

Norrie Mulholland

First published in the Buteman 20-02-2003


Pagehits: 1015 (Today: 1)