I am aware of not having been particularly kind about the Common Starlings that visit our garden – as attractive as they are, sporting as they do, a glossy plumage of black, purple or green feathers dotted with white. I am guilty too of having rather gleefully expressed the aptness of their scientific name, Sturnus vulgaris, because of the way they ‘elbow’ out other birds at the feeders. Sturnus simply means ‘a starling’, whilst vulgaris in Latin means ‘common’. The derogatory connotation of ‘common’ is something that is vulgar or inferior – I rest my case. We used to know it as the Eurasian Starling or the European Starling – common names strongly implying that they do not belong here. However, just because this species was introduced to this country during the late 19th century, decided that this country is eminently inhabitable and has happily adapted to this environment does not justify feelings of enmity towards it. Do any of us ‘belong’ here or anywhere else in the world that we have settled and inhabited for centuries?
Part of the success of these birds must lie in the fact that, as omnivores, they eat anything: I have watched them feeding on grain, fruit, and insects as well as pecking at the fat I sometimes spread on bread crusts and put on the feeder. They forage on the ground in an energetic manner, having perched on a branch, their beady eyes on the lookout for anything edible, before swooping down for a meal. As I have mentioned before, their ‘table manners’ leave a lot to be desired. There is no waiting their turn. I watched a pair of Black-eyed Bulbuls arrive at the feeder yesterday, for example: one waited on a branch until its mate had fed from an apple and then flew down for its turn – these starlings would have chased any other bird out of the way. They seem to believe that they have the right of way!
I hereby apologise to the Common Starlings for having denigrated them so.
Note: This is Day 2 of the national lock-down in an effort to curb the corona virus – a day for contemplation!