110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Nature Scenes: European starlings sometimes use other birds' nests
By Lynn Bowen
posted Jul 22, 2013 - 7:54:01am
A beautiful, 8-inch-long European starling with spectacular white dots all over him was gathering nesting material in DeLand in March. The 2.9-ounce bird was stocky, with a short, square tail and pointed wings, pink legs, and a yellow bill. Usually at that time of year, the bill is dark gray.
Please note that my photo shows this feathered friend with a yellow bill, which meant that he was getting ready for mating time. Usually a yellow bill on a European starling is part of the fall plumage for these birds. In the summer, they look completely different: The dots vanish, the plumage becomes a glossy black with iridescent greens and purples, and, as I mentioned, the bill turns yellow.
European starlings nest in any cavity, including openings in man-made structures like birdhouses or church steeples, or in abandoned woodpecker nests or the crevices of houses. These aggressive birds sometimes fight with smaller birds such as sparrows, seeking to use the smaller birds' nest. They usually just refuse to build nests of their own!
European starlings are native to Europe and Asia, and flourish whenever introduced to other countries, including Canada, the United States, and even Australia. They were brought to North America in the 1890s. They are found in towns, parking lots, lawns and fields, searching endlessly for their diet of invertebrates, seeds and fruit.
Starlings are messy and loud, with a harsh, high, thin whistle, yet they can also imitate other birds' calls. They're unpopular with many people. I do understand why farmers and orchard owners are devastated when these birds gobble up their grain and fruit, thereby causing financial chaos. They not only eat corn and other crops, but they also dig up seeds in the fields.
It's hard to believe these pretty birds can be so destructive. Cherry trees and strawberry patches are among their favorite places to dine. A huge flock of starlings can pick an area clean in just 15 minutes. Oh my, those folks in the 1890s should have left them in their original habitat!
These hardy, interesting birds are here now and do what their instincts dictate. On the plus side, their short, pointed wings make them look like a four-pointed star when they're in flight, and that's how they earned their name!
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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