Rose-coloured star­ling is a rare va­grant

The Arran Banner - - News - by Jim Cas­sels

On Mon­day July 10 a res­i­dent in Slid­dery was at the kitchen win­dow wash­ing the dishes and keep­ing an eye on the gar­den birds, when this stun­ning bird with its pink body, pale or­ange legs and bill, and glossy black head, wings and tail ap­peared.

As an ex­pe­ri­enced bird-watcher, he knew in­stantly that it was a rose-coloured star­ling and called his brother. The ex­cite­ment was pal­pa­ble. The bird was as­so­ci­at­ing with a flock of com­mon star­ling and was feed­ing in the ad­ja­cent fields as well as com­ing into the gar­den. The bird was later pho­tographed, caught and ringed by a li­censed ringer.

In the previous month there had been re­ports of rose-coloured star­ling from six lo­ca­tions in the UK, three in Scot­land on Is­lay, Barra and Skye. It is not known how many birds were in­volved. The rose-coloured star­ling is a rare va­grant to Ar­ran. The last re­port had been in Brod­ick on Fri­day June 28, 2002.

Its breed­ing range is from east­ern­most Europe across tem­per­ate south­ern Asia. It is a strong mi­grant, and win­ters in In­dia and trop­i­cal Asia. It is a bird of steppe and open agri­cul­tural land. In years when grasshop­pers and other in­sects are abun­dant, it will erupt well be­yond its core range, with oc­ca­sion­ally sig­nif­i­cant num­bers reach­ing west­ern Europe and the UK. In their nat­u­ral habi­tat they are highly gre­gar­i­ous birds, and of­ten form large, noisy flocks, which can on oc­ca­sion be a pest for grow­ers of ce­real crops or or­chards. On the other hand they are also greatly ben­e­fi­cial to farm­ers as they prey on pests such as lo­custs and grasshop­pers, thereby lim­it­ing their num­bers. For ex­am­ple in Xin­jiang prov­ince in China farm­ers build ar­ti­fi­cial nests to at­tract the birds and the birds help con­trol lo­custs re­duc­ing the use of costly pol­lut­ing in­sec­ti­cide.

The birds breed in tight colonies in a very short breed­ing sea­son timed to take ad­van­tage of peak abun­dance of grasshop­pers dur­ing May to June. It is dur­ing dis­per­sal af­ter breed­ing that some birds stray into north-west Europe. The Slid­dery bird was one such bird in 2017.

Males in the breed­ing sea­son have elon­gated head feath­ers which form a wispy crest that is fluffed and more prom­i­nent when the bird gets ex­cited. In win­ter, the crest is shorter, and the edges of black feath­ers within the plumage be­come paler as the edges of these feather erode. Win­ter plumage in males is com­par­a­tively dull. Fe­males in con­trast have a short crest and lack the sharp sep­a­ra­tion be­tween pink and black. The ju­ve­nile birds can be dis­tin­guished from Com­mon Star­ling by its ob­vi­ously paler plumage and short yel­low bill. Young birds moult into a sub­dued ver­sion of the adult plumage in au­tumn. These lack the crest. They do not ac­quire their adult plumage un­til they are nearly one year old in fe­males, and nearly two years in males be­fore they get the crest. From ex­am­i­na­tion while be­ing ringed, the Slid­dery bird was a male hatched in 2016

The Slid­dery bird hung about with the com­mon star­lings for the whole day on Mon­day July 10, but although the flocks of com­mon star­ling were checked through­out the week it was not seen again En­joy your bird­ing. Please send any bird notes with ‘what, when, where’ to me at Kil­patrick Ken­nels, Kil­patrick, Black­wa­ter­foot, KA27 8EY, or email me at jim@ar­ran­bird­ I look for­ward to hear­ing from you. For more in­for­ma­tion on bird­ing on Ar­ran pur­chase the Ar­ran Bird At­las 2007-2012 as well as the Ar­ran Bird Re­port 2016 and visit this web­site www. ar­ran­bird­

The rose-coloured star­ling spot­ted at Slid­dery.

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