Breed­ing ter­ri­to­ries

Landscape (UK) - - Land Scape -

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.

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