European Starlings

Photo Credit – Mick Thompson

There are people out there who are not big fans of starlings because they tend to travel in large flocks and they are raucous. I happen to love them. I especially love them in winter when much of the world is quiet and so many birds have migrated. There’s nothing better than passing by a tree that sings to you as dozens of roosting starlings call to each other. In addition to their calls and songs, European starlings are great mimics. In fact, they can mimic the calls of close to 20 other bird species including meadowlarks, red-tailed hawks, robins, and more.

European starlings, as the name suggests, are not native to North America. However, today they are found across the continent in all kinds of habitats. They are hardy, adaptable, and quite intelligent. During the fall and winter, they gather in the large flocks that make trees sing. The flocks disband in the spring for mating. The males are the ones who build the nest in a cavity of some kind, which also includes home vents, traffic light supports, and other human-made structures (thus another reason why some people are not big starling fans). The females only take part in nest building to oversee the final touches and make sure everything is to her standards. Both the male and female take part in incubating the eggs (usually 3-6).

When the flocks are together, they often fly together in huge numbers (think thousands) as one. Their swirling, turning, twisting, diving, synchronized flight is called a murmuration. In some places the number of birds in a murmuration is so large and dense they block the sun. While the research about their acrobatic flight is still ongoing, one theory about a murmuration is not only are the birds all safer from predators when they are in large groups, but the constantly shifting movements is also a deterrent. No matter the reason it is a sight to behold.