By Elizabeth McArdle
As the howling January gales sweep the countryside, it is hard to believe how any bird would want to be out and about at this time of year. Starlings are an exception and they love to be out and about, sporting their glossy winter plumage of black, pale tipped feathers, tinged with shimmering green and purple highlights.
In wintertime, the resident starling population is joined by a huge number of starlings from the Continent that fly in to overwinter here. Some birds travel from as far as Russia and Poland, depending on how cold the weather is there.
At sunset, they gather in great swirling flocks, forming beautiful patterns in the evening sky. When darkness begins to fall, the birds drop suddenly to spend the night perched shoulder to shoulder on tree branches, reed stems or rooftops. As they settle down, they chatter to each other like happy, gossiping grannies before finally falling asleep, whereupon a great silence descends.
Many of us are familiar with starlings from the bird table and unfortunately, they are more often referred to as ‘bird table bullies’ than very opportunistic and intelligent birds which take advantage of favourable situations provided by humans. Flies, beetles, crunchy grasshoppers, slimy snails and garbage are among their favourite foods. A survey has shown that Tesco scones also rate very highly on their menu.
Their talent for mimicking is exceptional and the ancient Romans taught them to mimic human speech. They are often seen sitting in a tree making a series of chirps, creaks and chatters as they impersonate crows, buzzards, cell phones, jack hammers and creaking doors.
We know that God has a special place in His heart for birds and how He must laugh at their mischief. Go outside and look for some sassy starlings and I guarantee you will laugh too.