Starlings need friends
If there’s a bird with an image problem then it has to be the starling. Long regarded as the shiny-suited spiv of the bird world, it’s one species that few people welcome on their feeders or birdtable. Yet of all our garden birds, there are few as entertaining.
Starlings are born pop stars. When they sing they put their whole heart and soul into the delivery, puffing out their throat and waving their wings to emphasise each note. Every individual has its own song, throwing in little phrases of mimicry that might range from a cat to a car alarm.
Singing starlings provide the very best in back garden entertainment but to see starlings at their most spectacular you have to witness a winter roost. Here tens of thousands of birds – sometimes even millions – gather together. Before settling down for the night they indulge in extraordinarily beautiful mass flying displays with thousands of birds turning as one. There are few sights in the natural world that are so spectacular.
Sadly, such mass roosts are no longer as common as they once were. During the last 30 years starling numbers have dropped alarmingly and no-one really knows why. Nor is this decline just restricted to the UK: the fall in numbers has been just as apparent throughout north-west Europe.
In Sweden and Finland there is a long tradition of providing nest boxes for starlings. They like a roomy box with an ample hole that allows them to pop in and out easily - see our 3S Starling Box, for example. They start prospecting for boxes in mid-winter, long before the nesting season approaches. Once the male has found a box he fancies he will spend a lot of time around it, singing and trying to impress the females.
Starlings are omnivorous, so there’s not much on the bird table they won’t eat, and they will even perform considerable acrobatics to raid the peanut feeder. Don’t begrudge them their food, and consider hanging out fat balls especially for them. After all, starlings need friends too.