Starlings: They Share Our Lives, and Even Get Legless!
Successful birds with panacheClick thumbnail to view full-size
Is That the Car Alarm Again!!!
That stalwart chap the starling
Has such a lousy name;
It's said that he's a bully;
A creature without fame.
They say he steals the spaces
Where other birds would nest;
They say for stealing fruit,
This boistrous thief's the best.
But what critcs should consider
Is the starling's other face.
This chap's the mortal enemy
Of some bugs that bug our race.
Take the juicy caterpillar:
This gourmet's hors d'ouvre...
Watch out! Japanese Beetle,
If he ever finds you there!
Of course, we're not forgetting,
That pest, the Gypsy Moth:
The starling gulps this monster
Like a Scotsman slurps his broth.
So when you see this braggart
Swaggering about at dawn,
Remember he's a staunch ally,
Who keeps the nasties off your lawn.
From "Charged Particles"
I have decided one of my favorite birds in Britain is the Starling. It is not greatly loved here because it doesn’t actually sing like the blackbird, thrush and all the rest, although it is an excellent mimic. I was watching some today after the gardeners had been and cut the large lawn in front of the building. They began to forage and literally hoovered the whole expanse of grass for any organic matter, no matter how microscopic it would have seemed to us. Pity the poor spiders and ants, but think how many pests must be gobbled as well by these keen-eyed and diligent avian predators. (see notes).
Starlings swagger through life without a care, frightened by nothing; shouldering hysterical blackbirds and symphonic thrushes aside like a truck driver might brush away simpering effetes in his path.
They are beautiful, too, with their multicolored plumage shining in the early Spring sunshine; their yellowy-orange bills, keen, black eyes and dreamy, sky-blue clutches of eggs. It is easy to see why the starling is such a success in times where the sparrow is fading and all the song-birds have felt the pressure from human expansion - and their bloody moggies. I am a cat lover to the extreme, but they are the scourge of the city gardens and it’s a shame we can do little about it, apart from banning cats which would have the British people taking up arms!
The gregarious starlings have learned that to unite means safety and strength: great clouds of them inscribe patterns over the evening sky as they assemble for a chat before roosting. Their cousins in Cuernavaca, Mexico, the Grackles, do the same in the rowan trees round the Zocolo, shrieking and caterwauling for an hour before calling time and putting weary heads under their wings. (The Grackel, or Grackle, is actually not of the same family as the starling, it is an Icterid, but is very starling-like in behavior).
Starlings are known as Passerine Birds, from the family Sturnidae. They are very widespread over most of the world and have many sub species. The largest are the Myna Birds of Asia. In the USA, New Zealand and Hawaii, starlings are seen as being intrusive, as they arrived through man’s doings over the centuries. Starlings in Europe have blended in well with man and have become quite omnivorous; are regular visitors to the feeders, flicking annoyed blue-tits away and gorging on seed balls and even seed and anything else going. They calls amongst themselves are some of the most complex in the avian world; they can pick out individual’s sounds from the flock, and are currently being studied to see how large is their vocabulary in real terms. They really are great imitators, even occasionally doing a creditable copy of car-alarms, to the annoyance and amusement of motorists. Fairly decorously garbed in Europe, other species have bright coloring and even crested heads. Ornithologists have reported unusual behavior in which some birds have staggered around and looked for all the world like Essex women on a night out, after ingesting too much ripe fruit. There you go, party gals, forget the high-priced Alco pops, take a feather from the starling’s book, Tesco’s refuse bin is the place to get a cheap starter buzz on Saturday night!
Notes. The starling is the only bird that regularly feasts on the ADULT Japanese Scarab Beetle. This invader has become a scourge in the Central and North Eastern USA as well as large parts of Canada. The starling possesses a unique ability to penetrate the soil up to inch deep, and then open their beaks and grasp beetles and larvae. For this reason alone, starlings should be valued by man in these parts and not seen as a pest: it's beneficial attributes would seem to outweight the damage it can do to crops in the winter. Starlings also dine on many other crop pests, such as the Gypsy Moth larvae and caterpillars.