Starling: Bird of the Week

Discover more about the bird that's famous for its spectacular murmurations - flying displays by vast flocks.

By Caroline Offord
Published 9 Jan 2019, 10:15 GMT
The starling, 'Sturnus vulgaris', has glossy green and purple feathers.
The starling, 'Sturnus vulgaris', has glossy green and purple feathers.
Photograph by Ben Andrew

Starlings are noisy, sociable characters. They spend a lot of the year in flocks. At a distance, starlings look black, but close up you can see they have green and purple, glossy feathers, covered in white and buff spots. Their flight is fast and they walk and run confidently on the ground.

Starlings are noisy, sociable birds, gathering in large flocks over winter.
Photograph by Ben Andrew

They feed on insects and spiders. They will also feed from seed and nut feeders and probe into lawns and playing fields for worms and leatherjackets, which are the larvae of craneflies.   

In winter, starlings from northern Europe join native British own birds, and together form huge flocks. Starling murmurations are a true wonder of the natural world – it is a mass aerial stunt - thousands of birds all swooping and diving in unison and completely breath-taking to witness. Early evening, just before dusk, is the best time to see them across the UK. You don't need any special equipment as it's all visible by just looking to the skies. Several RSPB reserves make great viewing spots, including Strumpshaw Fen in Norfolk, that had a peak of 30,000 plus birds in winter 2017-18.

Mesmerising starling murmurations see thousands of birds wheel, swoop and dive in flying unison.
Photograph by Eleanor Bentall
Birdwatchers enjoying the starling mumuration above the reed beds of RSPB Otmoor Nature Reserve, Beckley, Oxfordshire.
Photograph by Eleanor Bentall
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