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  1. 67 Photo by Geoffrey Dabb

Common Starling

Sturnus vulgaris

Appearance

  • Colour: It is glossy black with a green and purple sheen, but might look plain black from a distance. There are white spots on the tips of its body feathers which disappear during the breeding season. Young birds are dull grey to brown, before moulting to the adult colour. During moulting they may have a patchy brown and black appearance, often with pale spots.
  • It has a short square tail and a straight, pointed black beak which turns yellow during the breeding season. Males and females look alike.
  • Size: 20 to 22 cm long. 

Behaviour

  • Call: a collection of wheezy whistles, clicks and scratching notes. It is a proficient mimic of the calls of many other birds. 
  • Diet: spiders, small frogs, lizards, worms, vegetables, grain, fruit and food scraps, although most often seen searching for seeds and insects in lawns and paddocks. It usually feeds within two kilometres of its roost during the breeding season, but may travel further at other times. Many often feed together in a group.
  • Flight: silent and low to the ground, in a swirling tight-knit flock that rapidly and frequently changes direction, sometimes gliding for short periods. It also flies much higher, sometimes in large flocks. On the ground it has a sedate walk and a jaunty run rather than a hop.
  • Breeding: can occur any time but mainly between August and January. Pairs or small groups nest in the hollows of trees, shrubs, cliffs or buildings. The nest is an untidy cup of grasses, leaves, twigs, feathers and items of human rubbish. Between four and eight light-blue eggs are laid, and up to three broods can be raised per season. The eggs are incubated for 10 to 13 days by both the male and female. Both parents also raise the young birds, which leave the nest when two to three weeks old. 

What to Observe

  • Courting/mating
  • Calling
  • Feeding
  • Bird on chicks
  • Bird on eggs
  • Bird on nest
  • Bird feeding young

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

We expect birds to start breeding and singing earlier in the year as a result of climate change warming the Earth. They may also start appearing in new areas as warmer temperatures enable them to live in environments that were previously too cold for them.

When To Look

From August through to January, although breeding can occur at any time of the year.

Where To Look

  • Throughout eastern and south-eastern Australia, with an expanding range.  
  • Commonly around human habitation, and particularly in lowland suburban and cleared agricultural lands.
  • Also in open woodlands, grasslands, irrigated pasture, coastal plains, reed-beds around wetlands, swamps, parks, towns and cities. It is particularly common near water but avoids dense woodlands, forests, rainforest and arid regions.
  • Look in tree hollows and under rooves, or feeding on lawns or in paddocks. It is also commonly seen among, or standing on the back of grazing stock.

Common Startling Occurrence Map ALA

References

Pizzey, G & Knight, F 1997. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.

Strahan, R (ed) 1996. Finches, Bowerbirds & Other Passerines of Australia. Angus and Robertson and the National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.

 

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  1. What Else?

    • Dusky Woodswallow: shorter legs and bill and a longer tail, also obvious white edging to its wings and tail.
    • Yellow-throated Miner: a mostly pale, grey-brown body with a white rump and underparts. It has short, rounded wings and a longer tail. In flight, they usually follow one another in a line rather than forming a tight flock like starlings.
    • Purple-crowned Lorikeet: largely green, with a pointed, stubby tail and a small purple patch on its crown, with orange forehead and cheeks. It continuously calls “tsit” while in flight, unlike the silent starling. 
  1. Did You Know?

    Common Starlings were introduced into Australia from the late 1850s through to 1870, in the hope that they might destroy insect pests.

    They are aggressive when competing for nesting sites and readily drive out native species.

    Common Starlings need large amounts of protein to live and breed successfully, so insects make up over half their daily diet.

    The call recording is by David Stewart Naturesound

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