A Garden Birder’s Diary: June’s Juvenile Delinquents
Mid-summer: that time when every time you step outside there are noisy gangs of juveniles hanging around your manicured lawn, clambering on the fence or garden wall making an earful of noise that jars on the ear. Of course I’m referring to the love/hate garden bird – the Common Starling.
Maybe it’s the Starling’s behaviour at this time of year that gives them that love/hate status as the juveniles can appear raucous, argumentative and look particularly cross with their dark eye standing out from otherwise plain brown juvenile plumage.
They are for me a fascinating species, very sociable and while they have voracious appetites always welcome to my garden feeders. I always enjoy looking for the first signs of their brown juvenile garb wearing to reveal the more adult like white arrowhead spots on a glossy black belly. If you’re one of those people a little put off or scared by Craneflies (or Daddy Longlegs), then Starlings should be your best friends as that mob that descends on your lawn, probing the grass with their bills, is clearing ‘leatherjackets’ or Cranefly larvae by the hundred.
This summer it’s worth keeping an extra eye on those Starling flocks whenever you’re out as Britain is one of many Western European countries currently being invaded by a second Starling species the Rosy Starling (or Rose-coloured Starling).
This visitor from the east beyond Turkey and the Black Sea occasionally irrupts in numbers. This is probably in response to low food supply in its normal range and makes a migration west reaching Britain in small numbers. With a pink breast, belly and mantle and soft pink bill these Rosy Starlings can be easy to pick out among their darker cousins even at distance. Over 35 have been found in Britain this month already spread out from Scotland to the South Coast, more are expected to arrive.
While Starlings are widespread and can be found almost anywhere in Britain they are declining and are Red-listed, for this alone we should find a little room for them in our gardens.
Our Garden Birder – Alan Tilmouth
Our Garden Birder’s Diary is written by Northumberland-based birder Alan Tilmouth who has been birdwatching for over 30 years and writing about birds in various guises for the last decade. A keen garden birdwatcher, he also manages to unearth the odd rare bird on his travels. You can find Alan on Twitter and his Facebook blog.