Starling Excavation

The European Starling, rather vulgarly branded by the taxonomists as Sturnus vulgaris, was introduced to New York because some idiot wanted to see all of Shakespeare’s birds in the New World. Cf. “I’ll have a starling shall be taught to speak/Nothing but ‘Mortimer,’ and give it him/To keep his anger still in motion.” ~ Hotspur, First Henry IV, playing on the mimicry characteristic of the species. Highly adaptable, the species has spread across the continent. They are in the city year-around. You’ve probably seen them scavenging chicken bones (the cannibals!) on the sidewalk. They nest in cavities, and will take over the cavities dug by woodpeckers, as well as the birdhouses intended for bluebirds and other native species. This is what makes them invasive, because they put yet another pressure on other species already hard pressed by habitat destruction, pollution, climate change. I’ve seen them mob up on woodpeckers, who put a lot of work into digging out a nest, and chase them away. So imagine my surprise when I noticed this:and at the base of the London planetree:This bird was flinging out chunks of wood left and right and all around the town. It was woodpeckering, tackling the rotten wood of that hole as it excavated its own nest. In this next shot, it’s even posing a bit like a woodpecker:Some things to know about Starlings: their beaks are yellow only during breeding season, being blackish the rest of the year. Their non-breeding plumage shows many white marks, as here, for this individual has yet to take on the glossy, greenish-purplish black of full breeding plumage. In the air, they look like no other bird with their triangular wings and short square tail. In some regions, they mass in the tens of thousands, darkening the sky like clouds. They can make a great range of sounds, including what sounds just like the classic “wolf-whistle.” And yes, you probably could train one to squawk “Revolted Mortimer!” Also, they are fighters.

5 Responses to “Starling Excavation”

  1. 1 alphonsegaston March 25, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    I am fond of these bad boys–don’t have many out here in the sticks. They nest in our front porch roof. One morning I heard one imitating a rooster crowing in a fog–there was no fog when I looked out, just the sound effects. We have lots and lots of woodpeckers anyway.

  2. 2 Paul Lamb March 26, 2012 at 6:17 am

    In two of those fotos the starling appears to have three legs.

  3. 4 meemsnyc March 27, 2012 at 2:25 am

    You got some great shots of those starlings. How interesting that they were woodpeckering!

  1. 1 Five Nests « Backyard and Beyond Trackback on April 10, 2012 at 7:25 am

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