The Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) is probably best known for its spectacular murmurations in the winter months when literally hundreds of thousands of birds gather before roosting together in reed beds or similar habitat.

Photo of a starling murmuration at Blakehill

Starling murmuration at Blakehill nature reserve. Photo credit: Ellie Dodson

Starling have the honour of being both a resident and a migrant bird. Many of the birds seen in the UK in winter actually breed in eastern Europe and Russia and come to our shores to escape the bitterly cold weather and snowfall. So birds you see in a murmuration could have travelled thousands of miles to be there.

Adult Starlings have a beautiful iridescent plumage and can be amazing mimics. Some birds be documented having up to 35 different song types. This mimicry is used by male birds to attract a mate.

Being hole nesters, the pair will select a cavity to call home. Often this will be in the wall of a house or building. The female will lay four or five bright blue eggs at some point in April or May.

Around five weeks later the young birds will fledge. Unlike the adults the juveniles are brown; moulting into adult plumage over the next few months.  Typically a Starling will live for around 5 years, but one bird lived to the grand age of 17.

Photo of juvenile starlingsYoung starlings. Photo credit: Ellie Dodson

Some pairs will attempt to have a second brood whilst the young birds band together in noisy flocks. These flocks can be seen scouring lawns for leatherjackets and other tasty invertebrates found in the soil.

The resident UK Starling population has sadly been in decline. Numbers have plummeted by up to two thirds since the 1970’s placing the species firmly on the Red List.

The exact cause of the decline is Starlings in unknown. However changes in land use and building design may play a part. Nest boxes and provide safe homes for them to breed and leaving area of grassland rough and long can help support the invertebrates they need to survive.

In Wiltshire we are lucky to still have lots of breeding Starlings. It is important that we record where they are to help protect them for the future.