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.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Loud flock of black birds

If you see a loud flock of black birds on the wires they are probably European Starlings. 
 
European Starling Sturnus vulgaris

Description
Adult starling males and females mature to a length of about 8.5 inches and weigh about 3 ounces. Starlings molt their feathers in the fall. The new feather tips are whitish, giving the bird “stars”. 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.

Behavior
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, nectars, and garbage.

GeneralIn 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. Schieffelin belonged to the Acclimation Society of North America, a group with the seemingly laudable, if misguided, aim of aiding the exchange of plants and animals from one part of the world to another. In the 19th century, such acclimatization societies were fashionable and the effect that non-native species could have on the local ecosystem was not yet realized.

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.

His attempts to introduce bullfinches, chaffinches, nightingales, and skylarks were not successful.
  
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