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© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, Jouko Lehmuskallio, Jari Hiltunen, Kari Pihlaviita, M. & W. von Wright (Kansalliskirjasto, The National Library of Finland). Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Starling

Sturnus vulgaris

  • Name also: Common Starling, European Starling
  • Family: Starlings – Sturnidae
  • Appearance: Plumage mainly black with a violet and green metallic sheen. Beak yellow. Can be confused with Blackbird but has a short tail, and on the ground moves by walking, not hopping with both feet like a Blackbird. In flight shape and movements resemble Waxwing. Juvenile birds are uniformly brown.
  • Size: Length 19–22 cm, weight 59–88 g.
  • Nest: In a hole or a nest box. Made of straw, leaves, plant stalks and a few feathers.
  • Breeding: 3–8 eggs laid April–May, incubated by both parents for 11–14 days. Fledglings remain in nest for 17–25 days.
  • Distribution: Breeds around human settlements in all regions of Finland, but scarce in Lapland. Finnish breeding population estimated at 30,000–60,000 pairs. Numbers have declined recently.
  • Migration: Migrates by day. Leaves Finland September–November, returning March–April. Winters in countries around the North Sea, also occasionally in Finland.
  • Diet: Invertebrates, berries, seeds.
  • Calls: Call a harsh wheezing chirp, song highly varied and chattering, may skillfully mimic the calls and songs of other birds.

In the summer, adult starlings have black plumage with a violet and green metallic sheen and small white speckles. Their beaks are yellow and their tails look short. Juveniles have darker beaks and uniformly pale brown plumage with some indistinct streaking. In their first July, juveniles moult and start to grow their adult plumage. Since they moult different patches of their plumage at different times, by late summer they may look very striking, with parts of their plumage still pale brown, and other parts already blackish with the white spots and metallic sheen characteristic of adults’ plumage.

In the winter, Starlings’ dark plumage is covered with yellowish white spots. Starlings have reddish brown legs. Their beaks are lemon yellow during the breeding season with colouring on the base of the lower mandible that is bluish grey on males or pinkish on females. Juveniles and birds in winter plumage have brownish beaks. Males have dark brown irises, but females’ irises are brown with a narrow yellowish white ring.

From midsummer Starlings start to form flocks. Roosting flocks can grow in size until they contain thousands of birds.

Savor the Flavour

‘The European starling (brought over to North America from England) has a phenomenal sense of taste. They can taste salt, sugar, tannins and even citric acid. They can even make a distinction between table sugar and other kinds of sugars – a helpful ability considering they can’t digest table sugar easily.’

Citation from Canadian Wildlife Federation

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