Nature Bulletin No. 140 January 31, 1948
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
William N. Erickson, President
Roberts Mann, Supt. of Conservation
Among the birds that are common here in wintertime, particularly in
cities and towns, is the Starling. Most of them migrate but many remain.
Like the English sparrow, it is an immigrant, native to Europe and Asia
where it migrates as far as Africa. In 1890, sixty starlings were released
in Central Park, New York City. From there the bird has multiplied and
spread until it is found in southern Canada, northern Mexico, and most
of the United States, including California. Like English sparrows, they
have multiplied very fast. The female lays from 4 to 8 pale blue eggs at
each nesting period and raises two, often three, broods per year.
In Europe, starlings are frequently kept in cages because they can be
taught to whistle tunes. Their common call is a drawn-out rising whistle,
and their usual song is a jumble of noises mixed with excellent
imitations of other birds.
They are chunky short-tailed birds, commonly mistaken for blackbirds.
Their plumage varies considerably with their sex and age and with the
seasons. Most of the year, the long pointed bill is dusky brown, but in
spring it becomes yellow. They are easily identified by the short tail,
erect posture, and quick nervous erratic walk as they waddle about on
lawns and pastures searching for insects. Half, or more, of their food is
insects -- many of them harmful -- but they also like fruit, and will pull
up the sprouts of flowers, garden vegetables and field crops.
In flight they alternately flap their wings and then sail, but they can
attain more speed than most birds. In the fall, when they gather in huge
flocks, they will perform remarkable maneuvers. A flock will rise,
assemble, and then sweep back and forth, back and forth -- all turning
together, like a flash, as if at a command. Except at nesting time, they
tend to congregate in flocks. A few years ago, in an old nursery south of
Champaign, Illinois, there were estimated to be from 300,000 to
400,000 starlings roosting in an area of less than 5 acres -- so many that
their weight broke the limbs of the trees. They become a nasty nuisance
in cities where thousands roost on public buildings and other thousands
in rows of street trees.
Then you cuss the guy that brought 'em over here from Europe.
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Update: June 2012