Star­lings are lit­tle dar­lings

Macclesfield Express - - WILDLIFE -

HOW on earth are the noisy star­lings that land on my bird table the same birds that swish and swoosh in mur­mu­ra­tions in the skies above the north west?

How can those skilled fliers, avoid­ing each other in an as­ton­ish­ing fly­ing car­pet, be the same birds that lit­er­ally el­bow each other off feed­ers hang­ing from the tree?

Last month we bought a new bird table and knocked the top off the old one to pro­vide an­other plat­form for food. What a lovely, busy noisy meet­ing place for star­lings it now is.

Star­lings tend to make up a large per­cent­age of the birds in most gar­dens. Spar­rows hang about out­side the star­ling frenzy wait­ing for any ex­tra food that is left be­hind. They are like wannabe star­lings and they do make a lot of noise in the bush be­hind our back al­ley.

The re­gional bird at­las says the av­er­age num­ber of star­lings is around 300,000 with num­bers ris­ing to 500,000 at times.

Re­cent win­ters have seen counts of a mil­lion in the north west, this will in­clude many win­ter vis­i­tors com­ing over from Scan­di­navia.

And yet, over­all, star­ling num­bers have de­clined in north­ern Europe with the Bri­tish Trust for Or­nithol­ogy re­port­ing a drop of 66 per cent since the mid-1970s. It is now a bird on the Red List of Con­ser­va­tion Con­cern.

That de­cline has mainly been in the coun­try­side where food, like worms and in­sects, are less com­mon be­cause the ground is drier and harder to pen­e­trate with yel­low bills.

I love the shiny feath­ers on a star­ling, of­fer­ing up greens, blues and pur­ples in the oily black­ness. In win­ter they go all spotty, which is also de­light­ful. Young star­lings should be los­ing their dark browny grey colour now and look­ing a bit more like the adults.

I spend a lot of time in the home bak­ing aisle at my lo­cal store fill­ing my bas­ket to en­sure my star­lings and black­birds get their fair share of fruit.

Star­ling mur­mu­ra­tions have less­ened in num­ber over the years but they are still great to see.

As win­ter closes in and if you fancy a trip to the sea­side, look out for thou­sands of the birds at the North Pier in Black­pool - or at our Brock­holes na­ture re­serve in Pre­ston. I think it’s bet­ter than the il­lu­mi­na­tions and it lasts all win­ter.

To be­come a mem­ber of the Trust go to the web­site at www.lanc­swt.org.uk or call 01772 324129. For more in­for­ma­tion about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call: 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewil­dlifetrust.org. uk.

Darin Smith

Star­lings are great birds to watch over win­ter

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