The European starling, popularly known as Common starling, or Starling, is a medium-sized bird belonging to genus Sturnus. This bird was first described by Swedish botanist and zoologist Carl Linnaeus in Systema Naturae in 1758 with its present binomial name. In 2004, their worldwide population was estimated to be around 310 million individuals, covering an area of 8870000 square kilometres.
Species: S. Vulgaris
The scientific name for European starling is Sturnus vulgaris.
It has twelve recognized subspecies –
The size of an adult European starling is between 19 to 23 centimetres, and their wingspan is around 31 to 43 centimetres. The weight of each individual can be between 58 to 102 grams, depending on age.
Both male and female carry iridescent green colored glossy plumage that becomes spectacled at some seasons of the year. The colour of their legs is pink. Their bill is black in general, but it turns yellow during the breeding season. Males possess elongated feathers on its breast, while females carry petite, short plumes. Males have a bluish patch on the base of their bills, while females carry dark pink or reddish pink speck.
The European starlings primarily prefer grassy, open areas with a water source nearby.
They can be commonly seen around human habitation. They prefer agricultural fields, city streets, or lawns for foraging; and trees or buildings for nesting. It has been noted that they have a tendency to avoid desert or large stretches of forest.
They are native to Eurasia. They can be found throughout Europe (from Great Britain to Lake Baikal), Northern Africa, northern India, Nepal, Maldives, north-west China, and in middle eastern countries.
This bird was introduced to the United States in 1890 and then spread to Alaska, Canada, and southern Mexico. They were also introduced to Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa and Japan.
European starling’s ability to adapt different habitats has allowed them to spread in many parts of the world. They are social birds. They roost, travel and feed in huge numbers. It is common to see them foraging with other bird species including House Sparrows, Cowbirds, Blackbirds, Rock Pigeons, American Crows and American Robins. There are many ways in which Starlings communicate with other species during foraging. Common starlings are quite aggressive. They chase off other birds if they come near their nests. As breeding season approaches, males typically attract the female by singing near its nest and flapping of wings. Once the pair is formed, male follow its mate everywhere.
The breeding nest is typically made in a tree cavity, or a building, or in an old Woodpecker hole. At times they make the nest in cliffs or burrows.
They nest, which is lined with grass, cloth, string, trash, and feathers among others, can be placed as high as 60 feet from the ground. Male build the nest long before mating takes place. It has been noted that females add green plants in the nest throughout the nesting period, especially during egg laying and incubation process. Females lay a clutch of 3 to 6 eggs that are 2.7 to 3.2 centimetres in length, and 1.9 to 2.3 centimetres wide. The eggs are greenish or bluish-white in color. Incubation lasts for about 12 days. The juveniles are helpless at birth. The color of newly born babies is greyish brown and less glossy compared to adults. They weigh around 6.2 to 6.6 grams. They have more rounded wing tips. Their eyes open at least 5 to 7 days after hatching. During this time, they are fed by both parents. They leave the nest after 21 to 28 days. The young individuals form flocks with other young individuals.
This species is generally insectivorous. They feed on wasps, ants, grasshoppers, earwigs, sawflies, bees, crane flies, moths, lacewings, flies, beetles, mayflies, dragonflies, spiders and damselflies.
At times, they also feed on small amphibians, snails and lizards. They have also been noted to eat nectar, fruits, seeds and grains.
Their lifespan in its natural habitat is 2 to 3 years. However, the longest recorded lifespan is 22 years 11 years.
They are quite noisy, especially at communal roosts. The males’ songs are greatly variable, and it had got numerous components. They click, whistle, warble, creak, gurgle and chirrup. They are also known for their vocal mimics of other birds including Killdeer, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Meadowlarks, Northern Bobwhite, Red-tailed Hawk, Wood Thrush, Northern Flicker, and American Robin among others.
Most of their predators are avian. Both adults and juveniles are hunted by Eurasian hobby, Eurasian sparrowhawk, Northern Goshawk, Peregrine falcon, Common kestrel, Eastern imperial eagle, Australasian Harrier, Common buzzard etc. They are also vulnerable to owls, such as Little owl, Barn owl, and Eurasian eagle-owl among others.
This species is widespread in its native range, but according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, their population went down around 52 per cent between 1966 to 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has kept Common starling in the ‘Least concern’ category.
Its scientific name Sturnus vulgaris has come from Latin, in which ‘Sturnus’ is Latin for ‘Starling and ‘vulgaris’ means ‘common.’
The North American population of this species have descended from hundred birds that were set free in Central Park in New York in early 1890s.
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