Tuesday, 10 November 2009


The daily squabbling early morning visitors are now in full voice. Each morning a mob invades the feeders and crowds into the bird table. Fortunately for the Blackbirds and other ground feeders Starlings are in such a hurry to grab food before anyone else that a fair proportion ends up being scattered all over the place.

For a bird which is sociable enough to gather in thousands for their nightly roost they spend an awful lot of time squabbling when food is in the offing.

(If you have never seen the spectacle of thousands of Starlings gathering for the nightly roost then nip over to The Heart of the Levels Wildlife Group HERE for a spectacular video of the event.)

The other day Matron of Down on the Allotment asked me an interesting question: "... do you know what are the starlings nearest relative?"  It was a subject I had never considered so I had a look round the internet.

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica they are in the family Sturnidae, order Passeriformes which consists of Starlings, Mynas and Oxpeckers. The latter seems to be open to question with some authorities. There are many different Starlings around the world. So it would appear they are not related to any other type of native British bird but to Myna birds.

There is a list on Wikipedia.

As Matron said - it is not surprising that Starlings and Mynas are related as both are very good mimics of other birds and of sounds around them. I remember years ago when trim phones were popular that Starlings would spend ages imitating the sound. Once they have had their fill things calm down and many roost in the Leylandii at the bottom of the garden where they make an almost endless succession of quiet whistles, peeps and various other sounds until they are ready for their second helpings.

Another bird which has a fascinating range when it comes to mimicking other sounds was shown on television last night in the David Attenborough Life - Birds programme. One Bower Bird not only imitated other bird calls but could also make the sound of a Pigeon flapping its wings. There is a video clip  HERE on the BBC site.


  1. Those starlings are just like a big, rowdy family, John! Did I see a sparrow manage to sneak out a tidbit from the right about halfway through the video? Very entertaining.


  2. Thank you Wilma. Yes, I think there are two occasions where Sparrows manage to sneak a seed from under the Starlings' beaks.

  3. I remember visiting a wildlife park in Yorkshire years ago and listening to the Myna birds. It was hysterical because they all had Yorkshire accents. 'Eee bay eck Muther!...etc.'

  4. Very interesting video clip. Those birds are certainly determined to get what they want!

  5. Now that, Matron, I would have loved to hear. Thank goodness Starlings don't talk.

  6. I think, Mick, I can safely say that Starlings live life in the fast lane, especially at meal times.

  7. Great clip John. I reckon if feeding was an olympic sport, Starlings would get gold everytime time.

  8. Thanks Keith. You could be right there.

  9. Your starlings are a very active group of individuals! I was amazed at the content of the link showing the nightly roost of the starlings. Imagine seeing it first hand! Terrific video and absolutely mind boggling. I also enjoyed seeing and hearing the bowerbirds. Another fascinating creature I was unfamiliar with. The videos from the BBC don't seem to play over here, but I did hear the bowerbirds audio. Thanks for an eye opening post!

  10. God Morning Glo. Sorry the video doesn't play. Probably BBC copyright stops it being played outside the UK. I found a copy of it on YouTube.


    You may have to click on the HQ button to make all of it play. Another similar one here:


    When I can find out where my Starlings roost I may try to film them. I didn't realise until I saw that video that they travelled up to 25 miles each day. I have seen and heard it many times on the TV but it would be great to experience it first hand. They always perform that 'ballet in the sky' which looks like a living sculpture.

  11. yes they are John we had one that used to imitate a mobile phone and the bin lorry reversing buzzer.

  12. I too remember the trim phone mimicry it was so funny, I'm sure many people ran in from their gardens to answer the 'phone'!

    They certainly don't let the wire on your table deter them, no wonder one got stuck in my fat feeder that time!

    I hoped you were watching the Attenborough programme. I thought the Bower Bird was incredible and as for the Great Crested Grebes courtship dance....so moving!

  13. Hi Adrian. It is quite surprising sometimes the range of sounds they make.

  14. I'm sure they did, Jan, me included! They don't like to let a simple thing like a wire mesh get between them and food.

    I've been watching quite a few on the Eden channel. Always fabulous photography. Yes, I agree. The grebe courtship dance is amazing. Talk about walking on water!

  15. John as usual your blog makes me smile. I have missed allot lately and that makes me sad. I hate having to work as hard as I do...but I know it's just for the short term. I'm even going out tonight to do a night shift at my second job. But what I wanted to tell you is that I've mentioned your blog on mine and Thank you for always coming by and leaving lovely comments about my shots. Hugs Crista

  16. Thank you for the mention Crista, much appreciated. It is relaxing to be able to watch the wildlife and I especially love filming what is going on in the garden.
    One day off a month isn't much so I hope you can soon get a bit more time to yourself.


Thank you for visiting. Hope you enjoyed the pictures. Any comment, or correction to any information or identification I get wrong, is most welcome. John

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