The Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris), also known as the European Starling or in the British Isles just the Starling, is a medium-sized passerine bird in the starling family Sturnidae. It is about 20 cm (8 in) long and has glossy black plumage, which is speckled with white at some times of year. The legs are pink and the bill is black in winter and yellow in summer; young birds have browner plumage than the adults. It is a noisy bird, especially in communal roosts and other gregarious situations, with an unmusical but varied song. Its gift for mimicry has been noted in literature including the Mabinogion and the works of Pliny the Elder and William Shakespeare.
The Common Starling has about a dozen subspecies breeding in open habitats across its native range in temperate Europe and western Asia, and it has been introduced to Australia, New Zealand, North America, South Africa and elsewhere. This bird is resident in southern and western Europe and southwestern Asia, while northeastern populations migrate south and west in winter within the breeding range and also further south to Iberia and north Africa. The Common Starling builds an untidy nest in a natural or artificial cavity in which four or five glossy, pale blue eggs are laid. These take two weeks to hatch and the young remain in the nest for another three weeks. There are normally one or two breeding attempts each year. This species is omnivorous, taking a wide range of invertebrates, as well as seeds and fruit. It is hunted by various mammals and birds of prey, and is host to a range of external and internal parasites.
Since Common Starlings eat insect pests such as wireworms, they are considered beneficial in northern Eurasia, and this was one of the reasons given for introducing the birds elsewhere. 25 million nest boxes were erected for this species in the former Soviet Union, and Common Starlings were found to be effective in controlling the grass grub Costelytra zelandica in New Zealand. The original Australian introduction was facilitated by the provision of nest boxes to help this mainly insectivorous bird to breed successfully, and even in the US, where this is a pest species, the Department of Agriculture acknowledges that vast numbers of insects are consumed by Common Starlings.
( See Part 2 : Flock of Common Starling )