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.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Big, noisy, brown birds in spring

What are those big, loud, gray or brown birds at the feeder? ~ East Lansing, MI
Adult and baby starling
A lot of baby birds fledge from the nest in camouflage colors of dark grays or browns. Then usually after a few weeks their adult plumage develops.

In the spring you’ll probably hear baby starlings before you see them. European Starling parents look a little confused by the large babies they’ve hatched. The babies follow parent starlings around with wide open mouths and loud demands for food.

Their babies almost look like a different species. They have fluffy dark gray feathers that can make them appear larger than their sleek black parents. I like to watch them bumble about the yard picking up things like sticks in the grass to test to see if its food before they spot a parent and run after them. The flight of the babies is pretty good but their landings sometimes need a little practice.
A juvenile European Starling (also known as Co...Image via Wikipedia
Juvenile European Starling

Soon they’ll start to grow a black and white spotted vest. Then eventually their whole body will be covered by iridescent black feathers with white tips before winter. The white tips give the bird a spotted look or the appearance of “stars” covering their body, hence the name starling.

Adult starling males and females mature to a length of about 8.5 inches and weigh about 3 ounces. 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.

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