Bird of the Week

Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the European starling.
If you see a flock of smaller, black birds perched near the top of a tree or lined up on a wire, you are very likely looking at European starlings. What appears to be a plain black bird from a distance shows colorful plumage on closer view. During fall and winter, these black birds are covered with white speckles, but in spring and summer breeding plumage, they show off beautiful purplish-green iridescent colors. Even their bills change color from gray to yellow in summer. In flight, their wings appear translucent.
Starlings are city birds, where flocks forage through the short grass of lawns and golf courses for invertebrates and seeds. They also eat berries and garbage, and large flocks can be found hanging around our landfill. Another favorite feeding place is mowed agricultural fields.
From a mere 100 birds released in New York City’s Central Park in the 1890s, the population of European starlings on our continent now exceeds 200 billion birds. In response to predators, either hawks or falcons, starlings take to the air in a huge group.
The current (winter 2017) issue of Audubon magazine opens with photos of these swirling clouds of starlings known as murmurations. For an incredible view of aerial acrobatics, you can also check out starling murmurations on YouTube.