About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dark gray bird with white speckles

I have flocks of robins eating the fruit from my Mary Potter Crab trees. Mixed in with the robins, (seemingly a part of the flock), I see a bird that initially looked like a baby robin as it has the speckled look, but I knew it couldn't be that this time of year. These birds are a darkish gray, about the size of a robin and have rounded white tips on their feathers and a blue green iridescent underbelly. I've never noticed a bird like this. Do you have any idea what it could be? I'd sure appreciate any help you could provide. Thank you, Novi, MI

They are probably European Starlings. They flock and eat fruit in the winter just like American Robins and Cedar Waxwings.

The European Starling Sturnus vulgaris molts its feathers in the fall and the new black feathers have tips that are whitish, giving the bird the appearance of “stars” covering their body. Over the winter, sunlight and weather dulls the speckled look and the bird becomes uniform dark brown or black.

Both sexes also have reddish brown legs, and seasonal changes in bill color (yellow in the spring, black in the fall). Males sport a bluish spot at the base of their beaks, while the female displays a reddish pink speck. Juvenile birds are large dull gray or black.

The European Starling is insectivorous when breeding and typically consumes insects including caterpillars, moths, and cicadas, as well as spiders. The starlings like to grab bugs directly from the air or plunge their beaks into the ground randomly and repetitively until an insect has been found. In the winter starlings are omnivorous and can also eat grains, seeds, fruits, nectar, and food scraps.

In 1890’s, 100 starlings were released into New York City’s Central Park. It is said that Eugene Schieffelin wanted all of New York to see the birds mentioned in the plays of William Shakespeare. Until that time, starlings were not native to North America and were imported from England. Scientists estimate that descendants from those original released flocks now number more than 200 million in the United States.

Thank you so much, you are correct! Additionally, the male, (I assume), has alternating iridescent purple and iridescent red under the neck with iridescent green on breast. Very pretty. Female is lighter in color and more white specked with little iridescence. They seem to be a good example of a bird that can easily be ignored, but when viewed more closely, they are very beautiful; especially on a sunny winter afternoon which brings out the beauty of the iridescent coloring! Thank you so much for the identification!!

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