Chilly mornings and misted windows – at this time of year, we welcome the busy chatter of starlings pinging across our rooftops.
Flocks of these noisy birds descend on our gardens from Scandinavia and Poland as the weather cools, and their enormous numbers can be found roosting in city centres and large towns. However, despite there being 9.5 million of these gregarious birds in Britain alone, their decline in rural areas since the 1980s has made them a protected species.
Smaller than a blackbird, these seemingly dun-coloured birds are anything but boring. Their iridescent plumage means they glitter blue, purple and turquoise in the light. To top this look off, the speckled white breasts of their winter plumage gives them a fantastic icy shimmer.
Males and females may appear quite similar; however there is one easy way to tell them apart. Their sharp yellow beaks are quite long and let out a melodious flutey whistle – look to the base of these beaks and you will see that a male has a blue base and the female has a pink base.
Autumn is a fantastic time to see the starlings do their most famous trick.
Murmurations are a wonderful spectacle, where hundreds if not thousands of starlings ascend into the air during the early hours of the evening and perform a dazzling show, moving in synchronisation to make mesmerising patterns in the sky. Although nobody knows for sure why starlings put on this incredible display, some theories say that it helps to distract predators as raptors will not be able to focus on one specific bird (safety in numbers), and others say that birds gather to exchange information about the best feeding spots before they head down to roost. Watch a murmuration here!
The fantastic thing about starlings is that they’re so easy to cater for! Some people might say too easy – when large flocks of starlings come to your garden, you might find yourself filling up the feeders more often than usual.
If you want to welcome starlings and a variety of other birds, try these feeds:
Easy to swallow and digest, these a great quick meal for starlings.
Starlings are omnivorous, opportunistic feeders and will often feed on grubs in the wild.
A refreshing snack for in-between stodgier meals.
You’ll find these to be a firm favourite – ensure to stock up!
However, if you find that starlings are wiping your feeders out daily, feed your other garden birds earlier in the morning an evening as starlings tend to feed later on. You can also use smaller-meshed feeders which will be used by more petite birds. Most of all, remember to enjoy your starling visitors – they won’t be around for too long!