Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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The Starling
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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