Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Return of the starlings

Starlings have returned to the garden over the couple of weeks or so.  Still sporting her winter plumage this one has been spending her time probing the lawn for invertebrates or feeding on the feeders - she prefers peanuts.  The males have started singing (at least they call it singing) in the tallest trees.

In the right light starlings have wonderful colours in their plumage with green in the wings and breast feathers and purple on the back and head.

Starlings nest in my garden each year - there were at least six pairs in holes in trees last year.  Looking through 21 years' data from my garden on the BTO Garden BirdWatch website I can see a big change comparing the past decade or so with the first ten years.  Starlings have always disappeared from the garden soon after the chicks fledge but used to return in the autumn and be here all winter.  More recently they have been arriving at about this time of year, in smaller numbers, ready to choose a nest hole.  This chart from Garden Birdwatch from 2003-2014 shows that starling numbers in gardens were at their lowest over the last three years.

These two graphs document the continuing decline in starlings in gardens, both in percentage of gardens with starlings and in the numbers birds per garden.

Although the starling was the second commonest bird in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch last year, numbers have declined by 80%  since the first Birdwatch in 1979.  Because of the decline in numbers the starling is on the IUCN Red List.


  1. I'm in Howdon, Wallsend and the 30-50 Starlings I get in my garden never touch peanuts, nor does any other bird. Every 2-3 weeks I empty my feeder and smash the nuts up then they eat them.

    1. Thanks John. The starlings here have plenty of choice but do seem to prefer peanuts to fat balls or sunflower hearts. Woodpeckers, tits and tree sparrows eat them as well.