Friday, January 16, 2009

Aghhhhh --Look what was at my Feeder


I had a 'new' bird at my feeder yesterday... Guess what it is??? I am sure that most of you 'birders' know what it is!!! It's a European Starling.... YIPES!!!!! At least I 'think' it is. It has all of the characteristics except a yellow bill. Our bird's bill was black. SO--is it a Starling or something else???


Earlier in the morning (it was 10 degrees outside), George noticed a HUGE flock of birds in our FRONT yard (not anywhere near the feeders).. I wondered at the time what they were --and thought about some of you complaining about having alot of Starlings, in huge groups.


Later, in the morning, I saw THEM at my suet feeder. Luckily, I only saw 2-3 of them at the feeder, and didn't see them again after that time (thank goodness). I hope they were just passing through!!!! They didn't scare off our regular birds--who were at the feeders most of the day!


I looked up info on Starlings since I didn't know much --other than the negative stuff. Here's some info I read: "The starling is a dark, chunky, muscular bird that is distinguished from other blackbird species by its short tail and longer, slender bill. In the winter starlings showcase a highly speckled, iridescent coat, while in the summer their plumage is much duller brown/black with less speckles. Starlings gather in massive flocks (some numbering tens of thousands) and these aggressive birds will drive out other native bird species often taking over the other birds' existing nests."


Starlings are regarded by most as pests but there are a few facts about these birds that many people don't know, yet if they did they might look at these birds a little differently. Despite their huge population, you may be surprised to know that starlings are not native to North America. In 1890, a fan of William Shakespeare's took it upon himself to have all of the birds mentioned in Shakespeare's writings found here in America. So, along with many other species, approximately 30 pair of starlings were released in New York City and after only 30 years they could be found coast to coast. Obviously, they are highly adaptable. It is also interesting to note that it was the population explosion of starlings in the United States that resulted in laws being established controlling the importation of alien birds.


They are relatives of the mynah bird, and back in Europe, starlings are often kept in cages because they can be taught to whistle tunes. It is said by experts that if you whistle a simple tune to your bird about 50 times over the course of three days it will learn to repeat it in the exact sound and pitch of your whistle. They make wonderful pets and even mimic words such as "pretty bird" or your cat's "meow". In fact, in the wild they can be mistaken for robins and red-winged blackbirds because they learn to imitate the calls of other birds they flock with. (Does that make you want a Starling???)


Even though starlings can be pests at your feeder throughout the winter, in the spring and summer their diet is more than half made up of insects, especially moths and japanese beetles. Any garden lover will find this a beneficial trait. George said YEAH to this since he grows roses and Japanese beetles can do tons of damage to roses. SO----am I going to 'poo poo' Starlings???? Maybe not--but I'd prefer them to NOT eat at my feeders. HA!!!


The picture above is one that George took when the Starling was on our feeder. He really is a pretty bird--this time of year, with his white dots!!! There are two more pictures below.



Above, you can see the Starling pecking on that suet. The temperature was about 10 degrees--so I'll bet that suet was HARD.



This is 'part' of the flock of Starlings (or some kind of birds) in our front yard... Yow!!!!

47 comments:

Cassie said...

Wow.Never knew all that about starlings.I just thought they were a black bird.Your spotty ones are pretty!

Jayne said...

If they descend, I either cut way back on the feeder filling, or offer up safflower so they'll go elsewhere. They may have some redeeming qualities, but they are still bullies in the yard.

Kallen305 said...

My solution is cat kibble. I put it in an area far away from the other birds and they don't come nearly as often as they did before. They love the cat kibble and they leave a lot of my suet alone.

Dianne said...

Oh gosh, don't get me started on Japanese Beetles! They destroy every and any plant. I had an ongoing battle with them when we lived in Ohio and Tennessee.

I already have a crazy bird that talks all the time so not too impressed with the starlings. Narrow Dog runs off any birds that dare land in our yard.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Thanks for stopping by on this frigid morning in the Glade. It is ONE degree outside now. Brrrrr!!! AND--we're 'hitting' the road today.. Going to Hendersonville, TN to check on George's parents--so we'll be off of the computer all day. Have a great day and stay WARM.
Hugs to all,
Betsy

Patty said...

I know nothing about birds other than they are pretty. I love the photos.

Tina said...

Betsy,
Thanks for all that info on the starling..I have noticed that they use this bird to train for tv..I have seen one on a commercial and then one was on NCIS last Tues!!..after reading your info..now I see why, very trainable. They are really striking birds with all those dots and patterns!! Love those kinds of patterns..in nature! Looks like you are also enjoying these frigid temps! Our current temp is 4F!
Love your side bar pics!

Cedar ... said...

Not only do they take all the feed, they have an annoying sound... not sure i can find any redeeming virtues when they come in a large flock like that. Good luck!

Smilingsal said...

This would NOT be a good time to watch Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds."

Mildred said...

Hi Betsy, Love your photos this morning. Hope you and George have a safe trip and find his parents doing well today. Hopefully, you took your camera along and can share photos and an update with us later.

fishing guy said...

Betsy: I must say they are pretty with the spots. They are very agressive and can eat a lot.
We are at -10F this morning so you are having a warm spell. LOL

Richard said...

I have a few starlings in the winter but nothing to worry about (as if I would). All birds are welcome here. I don't find them to be pests as a lot of people do.

Oh, and it's -22 here this morning and WC of -38...lol.

Busy Bee Suz said...

They really are pretty...but looks like they travel in "gangs" and intimidate the others. :)

Neal said...

My wife, daughter, and I were talking about starlings the other day when we saw a huge bunch of them. My daughter said they all came from just a few (I don't remember how many but it was less than 50) that some guy brought back from Europe because he thought they were pretty. I do NOT like them and chase them away if I see them around our bird feeder.

Mary said...

Definitely a Starling! Their feathers are so unique. I don't really like them, and fortunately they only come by when it is really cold or snowy or they are desperate. At least once a winter we get a wave of them pass through.

Carla said...

This is interesting info. And I think the Starlings are pretty. I don't dislike any bird. They are all welcome in my yard...and any bird that eats those dang Japanese Beetles is fine with me!

Ruth's Photo Blog said...

This is some interesting info,but unfortunately it does not change my mind about Starlings.They look pretty in their own way ,but I really don't want them at my feeders.
Blessings,Ruth

Jen said...

-6 degrees here this morning AND the sun is shining.

Black with white spots....hmmm?
I don't care for those starlings either, too bold.

ramblingwoods.com said...

Good info Betsy and they are aggressive and compete for nesting places with our native woodpeckers which causes a huge problem. They can empty a feeder in short order. I would suggest trying to scare them away...

Leedra said...

I saw a flock yesterday that probably was at least 2000 birds. They were down in a little valley, but still coming up in the swooping motion. I thought they were staying in the little valley to stay warm.

Leedra’s Photos For Fun
Photography By Leedra

Pigeon said...

I have seen one starling on my suet feeder this winter so far. I actually thought he was cute!

Judy said...

Thanks for the info. I don't know much about starlings either. I have seen them in my yard sometimes but not often. We have a lot of cardinals around here but it is the state bird. I love cardinals and think they are so pretty in winter against the white snow.

NCmountainwoman said...

Oh, Betsy. Please do not send them my way. I hate those things.

Stay warm and keep the fire going. It's gonna be colder out there tonight.

Deborah godin said...

Actually, even though they can be quite pesky, I do think they are beautiufl, especially in this winter plummage. And some of the weird unbirdlike zips and whistles etc they make are just hilarious!

Rocky Mtn. Girl said...

I don't mind these birds at all... they don't bother me one bit. I don't usually see them here in such large groups and their sounds are not that annoying... maybe it's different out this way, I don't know... to each their own, I suppose.
Take care!
~Michele~

amelia said...

We also have many starling among our birds. They do take over a bit but with our temps I feel so sorry for all the birds that I don't begrudge them their fill of seed.
It was -40 here yesterday and I just don't know how the little things survive but every morning they are here looking for their food.

Jessica said...

Wow... Let's hope they move along and were only stopping for a brief visit. I have been so lucky this winter. I haven't had any starlings at all. But last winter was a different story. They were a big nuisance last year, eating up all my suet I put out. I keep thinking that they are going to show up anytime again but so far they haven't.

Bird Girl said...

If I never saw another starling in my life I would be happy! They've chased away many of the song birds and stolen their nesting sites! I wish they would all go back to Europe where they belong! They come to my yard in huge flocks and take over! Eating everything in sight and keeping the regulars far from the feeders. Darn that Shakespeare fan!!!

Susie said...

I'm not a big fan of these birds myself. They hog the feeder where others little ones can't get to it.

Diane said...

They ARE pretty, aren't they. I love the coloring.

Wren said...

Yes, you have starlings. I know they are pests and invasive, but they are also quite smart and sometimes pretty. But I'm a sucker for smart. :)

dot said...

I wouldn't know one if I saw it but some years ago my sister had one for a pet. She has asked me several times if I've read the book Arnie the Darling Starling. I probably have but it's been a long time.

A Brit in Tennessee said...

All the European Starlings in North America descended from 100 birds released in New York's Central Park in the early 1890s. A group dedicated to introducing America to all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare's works set the birds free. Today, European Starlings range from Alaska to Florida and northern Mexico, and their population is estimated at over 200 million birds.
The "yellow" beak of the male is only yellow during breeding season, and the speckled plumage is only visible during non-breeding months.
Yep, they like to steal native species nests, though their call is pretty entertaining...
We had a flock in the garden this morning also...did you send them down the road a few miles ?

Ms. Hays said...

You've been tagged - stop by my page to get the details!

Mary said...

Betsy,

I've been struggling with Starlings and House Sparrows for two years. Although I think the Starling is a lovely bird, it has a crappy personality and one most people could do without! LOL!

If your roses are covered in beetles, the Starlings will still bully at your feeders. Even after they are filled up on grubs.

Mary

Daisy said...

I never saw starlings with spots. Maybe what we call starlings are something else. Only ones I've ever seen were all black. Cool pictures!

Shellmo said...

Great info on the starlings! I had one in my yard last summer that was imitating my cat - they can be pests but I admire their mimicry skills!

Jackie said...

Hey, Betsy, yes, starlings are a pain, we get plenty of 'em in our barn, bad, bad birds for livestock, lol. I have something for you if you'll stop by my blog.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Thanks to all for stopping by. I usually try to write individual comments back--but we were gone all day today, so it is now midnight and I've run out of time!!!! I do appreciate your comments and thoughts. You have helped me learn more about the Starlings---and even though I 'try' to see the good in all birds, I am hoping that these will move on AWAY from our yard!!!! Thanks Again for stopping by!!!!
HUGS to all, Betsy

Natural Moments said...

We had three at our suet feeder the other day. They are quite the adaptable species.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Thanks Bernie... I've read the goods and the bads--and there are qualities on both sides.. I haven't seen ours anymore so hopefully they moved on!!!

Bj said...

Thanks for teaching me my thingy for the day! Couple days ago, hubby came home and said he'd never seen such a huge flock of starlings at a neighbors home. They landed on the roof and took up the entire thing. He said it was so neat to see he had to stop the car just to watch. We haven't had trouble with them except this past summer. They found my water out back and took up camping for a time. They did chase off my birds for awhile. Has anyone noticed the birds are not abundent this winter? I have become worried about this trend as my yard has about 1/10 the birds I usually feed over the winter. I know the bees are declining, and hope the birds aren't too! Betsy - I can't post pictures ... why? (HELP)
(((Betsy)))
Bj

Bj said...

Never had beetles til 2007. That year they were aweful. They eat everything. I'd love to grow roses but truthfully I'm afraid they take more knowledge than I have. Now that the beetles are here in White House (Tn) I'm sure I couldn't raise them. You were very close to me in Hendersonville!
(((HUGS)))
Bj

Betsy from Tennessee said...

So BJ, you are in White House. I've been through there many times. Dad loved to take Mom on drives out in the 'country' from Hendersonville years ago--and they' drive through Portland, White House, etc. Neat area!!! I love that mountain range up there.

Send me you email and I'll try to help you with your pictures. Mine is betsyadams@mac.com

Rose said...

I sure didn't know so much about starlings...I just know the lady that used to write my paycheck loved them! But she is such a gentle soul that she could not be mean to anyone or anything.

Gardener's Garden said...

Now, now Betsy I love these birds. They kind of work like vacuum cleaners and then go on to the next yard. Hope it's mine because my birds are being picky and messy this year.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Rose--It's always fun to read other's responses.. Some love 'em and some hate 'em... Me??? I don't know!!!! I guess I'd prefer not to have them at my feeders--if they scare off the other birds.

Well Barb, IF they only were to be a vacuum cleaner and just clean the messes on the deck and ground, that would be fine. BUT--I'd want them away from our feeders..