What were once known as European Starlings have now become the Common Starling, doubtless because they have spread so successfully around the globe and continue to breed prolifically. They are not my favourite bird, simply because they don’t belong here. Don’t they? Surely after a period of over 120 years, since their introduction to South Africa, they should be regarded as belonging? It might have been the constant reminder of them being European starlings that drummed into us the exotic nature of their origin. Their scientific name, Sturnus vulgaris, doesn’t endear them to one either – given their strutting, rather rude manners at feeding stations. They were introduced in Cape Town by Cecil John Rhodes sometime between 1897 and 1899 and have been expanding their territory and establishing their presence here ever since.
Negative responses to this bird by the general public are emotive, so let us be fair and acknowledge their attractiveness – look at the iridescent green and purple gloss of their feathers and the white flecking / spots created by the white tips of the feathers. We used to get the odd one visiting our garden, but over the past twenty years these numbers have increased to periodic visits by a handful of birds – much larger flocks have been visible on school sports fields – and over the past three years or so, Common Starlings have become regular visitors to the garden. I am gradually accepting them as ‘belonging’ and actually find that they display interesting characteristics when observed closely. Look at this one’s slicked-back ‘hairstyle’:
An interesting observation is that their bills are dark during winter and gradually change to yellow during the summer breeding season. The photographs above and below were taken during November last year – see the yellow bill – and the first one taken earlier this month – the bill has already darkened as summer is coming to an end.
Common Starlings are here to stay and we simply have to accept that they ‘belong’ after all!