These speckled birds used to be called European Starlings and rightly so, for they are not an indigenous species. The scientific name, Sternus vulgaris, sums them up for me: they appear to be shifty in their outlook and behaviour – vulgar in the way they shove the weavers aside at the feeding table; their manner of flying in to gobble up what they can and flying out again – no manners. They are now called Common Starlings here – and ‘common’ they are too. You have guessed correctly that they do not count among my favourite birds.
This is because they do not belong here. Originating in Eurasia, the Common Starlings are an introduced species that have spread around South Africa. They are reputed to have been brought in by Cecil John Rhodes for his Groote Schuur estate around 1897/98, along with several other bird species from his homeland. The Common Starling proved to be the most successful.
These starlings favour urban gardens and open parks – they congregate in fairly large flocks in these latter places, although I counted nine of them in my garden yesterday. Fortunately, they usually only visit singly or in pairs. Their omnivorous diet of insects, fruit and seeds, coupled with the aggressive way they chase other birds away from the lawn when they are foraging for seeds and muscle in on the feeding table, means that they compete with indigenous species for food.