Very Common Starlings

Common Starling feeding young in nesting hollow

Common Starling feeding young in nesting hollow

Common Starlings are becoming far too common around here in Murray Bridge South Australia.

At the moment their breeding season is in full swing. Our home is situated in several acres of old growth mallee scrub. Being old trees, they have many hollows. The starlings take advantage of this and use every available hollow for nesting. The sound of begging young fills the air. I decided that it was time I took a close up photo of the parent birds entering the nest to feed the young ones.

They are very wary birds around their nests, so I had to be a little cunning. I actually used our car as a bird hide in order to get a close up shot.

Who was I kidding?

They must have seen me getting into the car because the adult photographed was still very hesitant about entering the nest. Eventually, after about a ten minute wait, the calls of the young must have become too insistent, and I managed to get the shot I wanted.

Related articles:

Bizarre bird behaviour

From time to time we all observe some form of bizarre behaviour exhibited by animals. Birds are no exception.

A few minutes ago I was enjoying an afternoon cuppa on the back veranda. I was in the lovely winter sun and out of the biting cold wind. Very relaxing.

As I sat there a small flock of about a dozen Common Starlings flew rapidly over head and then circled the garden several times before suddenly diving into a tree near the road which passes our little block of land. One of the flock was giving a strange call-hard to describe and one I’d not heard before from a Starling’s considerable repertoire.   Very strange.

I couldn’t determine why they had behaved in this way. I saw and heard no raptors sneaking around. This is the usual disquieting event for starlings and honeyeaters and other garden birds. I still have no idea why they were flying like that.

Common Starling

Common Starling

A Starling in a hurry

Common Starling

Common Starling

Common Starlings are not my favourite birds.

In fact, here in Australia they are considered a pest, especially by fruit growers and people who have a few fruit trees in their back yard. A small flock can completely ruin a crop of apricots in a few hours, for example.

There is a wider environmental issue to also consider. Common Starlings are often found in flocks of hundreds and even number in the tens of thousands in fruit growing areas. Large flocks like this feed on the crops when they are ripe; for the rest of the year they are seriously depleting food sources of many of our native species. Even worse is the fact that they use tree hollows for their nests, thus denying native birds precious nesting sites. They are also very messy in their nesting habits, fouling the hollows to the point where only Starlings will reuse the hollow.

Last night I was at an outdoor function being conducted by our church. We hold this event on Sunday evenings every year in January  in the town sound shell. Despite the very loudly amplified music the birding was spectacular. Not many species flew over, mind you, but one incident involving a Common Starling really caught my attention.

Two Australian Hobbies (Little Falcons) live around the CBD and I’ve seen them soaring around the area on a number of occasions. One of them zoomed past the sound shell at great speed heading for some trees in the park opposite. It did a few loops around a tall pine tree disturbing a Common Starling in the process which sped of in the opposite direction, hotly pursued by the falcon. Both disappeared behind a building. I hope that the falcon caught his supper.

Nature in the raw

On our daily early morning walks I usually take a keen interest in the birds seen and heard. Normally I see or hear only the most common birds around this area. On Friday, however, I was delighted to observe an Australian Hobby (also called  Little Falcon) sitting on a dead branch atop a mallee tree on the side of the road we were walking on. It stayed sitting there watching us as we passed by, giving us very good views of its markings.

This morning the same bird (I presume) was sitting on the same branch. As we approached it zoomed off low through the roadside trees and began pursuing a Common Starling. I lost sight of the chase as they headed towards a nearby scrub. I hope that the falcon caught his breakfast. Common Starlings are an introduced feral bird here in Australia. They are also a pest species, taking food and nesting sites from our native species. Most people do not like them as they do great damage to fruit crops.

The Australian Hobby is widespread but not all that common in this area. It is therefore always good to see this magnificent species.