starling



starling defined in 1930 year

starling - Starling;
starling - Black with purple and green reflections, the upper feathers tipped with pale buff; under tail-coverts edged with white; beak yellow; feet flesh-colour tinged with brown. Female: spotted below as well as above. Young: uniform ash-brown, unspotted. Length, eight and a half inches.

A compactly built bird with a short, square tail, strong legs and feet, and a long, sharp beak, the starling does not excel in beauty of figure or grace of carriage; his lines are rather indicative of strength; he looks what he is - a plodding digger in the meadows and pastures, a hardy bird of rook-like habits, able to stand all weathers. But he has a beautiful coat. As in the case of the large corvine species he so frequently associates with when feeding, his richly coloured plumage has a gloss which causes it to shine at times like polished metal in the sunlight. The starling has an added distinction in the spangling of white and buff on the upper parts.

During the greater portion of the year his food consists almost entirely of ins sets in their different stages. Like the rook, he searches at the roots of the grass for worms and grubs; and there is no doubt that he deserves his reputation of one of the farmer's feathered helpers. He attends the sheep and cattle in the meadows, and is often seen perching on their backs; the animals take it quietly, and perhaps know that he is on the look-out for ticks, which are a source of irritation to them.

Although a digger and plodder, the starling is very different from his companion, the rook, in manner. The rooks are seen soberly marching about, quartering the ground, each one intent on finding something for himself. The starlings are not nearly so methodical; they run about a great deal on the feeding-ground, and watch and interfere with each other. When one by chance finds a rich treasure, the others are eager to share it, and there are occasional scolding matches, and sometimes downright quarrelling, among them.

The starling is also a fruit-eater, particularly of cherries; and in winter, when insect food is scarce, he will eat berries, seeds, and grain, and, like the blackbird and blue tit, may be easily attracted to the house with scraps of animal food.

The nesting habits of the starling contribute to make it one of our most familiar birds. He breeds in holes, and a hole in a tree or rock, in a cliff or quarry, suits him very well; but he more often finds a suitable place under the eaves of a house, or in a barn, or church-tower, or other building; and, unless disturbed, he will jontinue to use the same site year after year. As early as January the starlings begin to pay occasional visits to the breeding-site, but they do not build until April. The nest is composed of a large quantity of dry grass, small twigs, moss, and other materials, and is sometimes lined with wool or feathers. Four to seven eggs are laid - five being the usual number - of a delicate pale greenish blue colour, and unspotted.

The starling sings more or less all the year, but his song is at its best in the spring months. He has no such melodious notes as distinguish the warblers; his merit lies less in the quality of the sounds he utters than in their endless variety. In a leisurely way he will sometimes ramble on for an hour, whistling and warbling very agreeably, mingling his finer notes with chatterings and cluckings and squealings, and sounds as of snapping the fingers and of kissing, with many others quite indescribable. On account of this variety of language he has always been reputed a mimic; but he does not mock as the mocking-bird does: he never reproduces the song of any other songster. Notes and phrases, and calls and alarm-notes, he has apparently picked up, and, listening, you recognise this or that species; but the imitations are seldom perfect, and in the end you are almost inclined to believe that he is called a mimic only because his variety is so great.

After the breeding season the young and old birds feed together in the pastures, where they unite with other families; and the flocks thus formed, as they increase in size, extend their wanderings over the surrounding country. Like rooks, they have favourite roosting-places, to which they return annually; these are reed and osier beds, thickets of holly and other evergreens, and fir-plantations. But they are not so constant in their attachment to one locality as the rook. They are more vagrant in their habits, and shift their ground, and migrate, and their numbers may vary greatly from year to year in the same district. In a district where they are abundant, they are seen at the end of each day gathering from all directions to the roosting-place; and it is then that the ' cloud of starlings ' may be seen at its best, and it is certainly one of the finest sights that bird life presents in England. At intervals, after the birds have been steadily pouring in their flocks for a couple of hours, the whole vast concourse rises, and, seen from a distance, the flock, composed of tens and hundreds of thousands, may then be easily mistaken for a long black cloud suspended above the wood. In a few moments it is seen to grow thin, as the flock scatters, until it almost fades away. Suddenly it darkens again; and so on, alternately, the form, too, changing continually, now extending to an immense length across the sky, like a long bar of vapour, and now gathered into a huge oval or oblong black mass; and by-and-by the cloud again empties itself into the trees, and the sky is clear once more. These evolutions are repeated many times, until, as the evening draws on, the birds finally settle down in their places, but not to sleep; for an hour longer the wood is filled with an indescribable noise - a tangle of ten thousand penetrative voices, all together whistling, chattering, scolding, and singing.

We have but one starling; an allied species, the beautiful rose- coloured pastor (Pastor roseus), which breeds in Western Asia, is an irregular visitor to all parts of England.

near starling in Knolik


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