It’s probably fair to say that Starlings are a bit of a scavenging bird – with their long straight beaks they are perfectly suited to digging grubs out of your lawn and hunting for bits of insect.
Their carnivorous ways give them an advantage when it comes to scavenging and they are a common sight on the Fylde Coast where fallen food is aplenty, and you’ll see them on the beach too. Nationally they’ve been shown to be in declining numbers, so it doesn’t hurt to give them a helping hand. Numbers of breeding birds have declined by about 2/3 since the 1970’s. A reduction in nest sites is partly to blame, but largely it’s a lack of food that has made their numbers drop.
If you help them, they’ll help you too. You’ve probably seen Starlings on mass, digging in lawns. They are after leatherjackets – the grub of the daddy long legs. These grubs eat the roots of your lawn and make yellow, sickly looking patches in your emerald green turf, so the more that the birds can dig out, the better for your lawn! They also eat worms, spiders, slugs and snails, so if you encourage them you’ll have your own pest control service on hand!
Starlings tend to nest in holes in walls and roofs – often returning to the same place year on year – whether it’s the same birds or different pairs is a good question. No doubt in more rural environments they nest in holes in tree trunks, but at Cleveleys they certainly live happily alongside us people.
We had a hole in a little false roof on our house and they nested in there for several years on the trot, but unfortunately for them, the mess they made was a bit too much and in the wrong place, so the hole was filled in after their babies departed!
In retribution for removing their home, I provided them with an alternative and bought a couple of cockatoo nesting boxes from a pet suppliers and fastened them just under the eaves where they would be sheltered from the weather. They have nested in there each year since, and raised their babies and chattered to me while I’m in the garden. They’ve actually got quite tolerant of us and will hop about and share the space while we are outside.
At the moment, the babies are getting stronger and noisier and when you’re in the garden you can hear them making a racket in their box. When they get bigger, they start sticking their heads out and watching the world! Then when they finally fledge my nerves are in shreds when they are in the garden all wobbly winged and vulnerable.
We feed the local tame seagull (with dog food) and they enjoy that too, picking all the bits up that the gull leaves. They also love cheese, cakes, and anything with a fatty content to it. When we do roast beef, instead of clogging the drains up or having a problem disposing of the fat, we sop it up with broken bread and put it out for the birds. It lasts for seconds!
The cockatoo boxes are well used all year round, as safe and dry roosts at night. They’re quite amusing too as they bob in and out of the two boxes, flying backwards and forwards between them. They also sit on the top too, close to the soffit and sheltering from the rain. The few pounds that they cost has been worth it in spades.
The treat that we get for giving these birds a helping hand is listening to them twittering and watching their antics. They are comical birds, and often mimic the sounds they hear around them, including other birds voices, whistles, and even telephones and human noise. The late summer sound that only the Starlings make as they sing their September song from the rooftops is a simple pleasure but a lovely one nonetheless that’s there for everyone to enjoy.
Mature adult starling
Fledgling starling just out of the nest
A messy pair, I’m sure you’ll agree!