The starling, Sturnus vulgaris, is a highly sociable bird, occurring throughout the British Isles, with the exception of the Scottish Highlands, and most abundantly in the south. The birds have a short tail, pointed head and triangular wings, with adults measuring approximately 8in (21cm) in length with a wingspan of 14½-16½in (37-42cm). Their glossy feathers look almost black, but have a sheen of purples and greens. Their flight is fast and direct, and the birds walk confidently on the ground. From late summer, the starling’s diet of insects, larva and fruit becomes more plant focused. This prompts an increase in the length of the bird’s intestine, as plant matter is harder to digest. Males can establish breeding territories from January onwards, defending a series of suitable nesting cavities in the hope they will be able to attract several mates. However, due to fierce competition, most end up with just a single cavity and one breeding partner. The first blue- or white-coloured eggs are laid from late March, and it is not uncommon for females to deposit one in the nest of another female if they have yet to secure a mate or nest site. This may be because early breeding gives the resulting fledglings more of the summer to gain independence. It also creates the opportunity for a second breeding attempt.
In winter, white spots appear on the tips of new plumage. These gradually wear away to expose the glossy dark feathers of the breeding bird by spring.