European Starling Watercolor © 2012 Sally Della Wickham
The European Starling is an eye-catching bird. When viewed from afar it is black but in the sunshine glints with a metallic sheen of purple or green. In the winter and spring it is covered with a dazzling array of speckles that reminds me of stars in the night sky. Although they may have been named for their resemblance to a four pointed star when in flight, I prefer to think it is because of their resemblance to a starry starry night.
Last summer, a starling fell from the sky and into my flue. That brave bird did not utter a single cry for help but the thumping/thrashing sound of numerous attempts to escape disturbed me while I sat drinking my coffee at the kitchen table. I checked the wood stove. Nothing there. Then, I checked the clean out door and sure enough, the sounds came from directly behind the door. After rescue, I snapped the bird’s picture while it glared at me from a pair of extra large leather gloves. Later in the summer a group of five or six starlings perched on the utility wire near the vegetable garden. I wondered if our rescue bird was among them while I enjoyed listening to their lengthy repertoire.
In the fall, conventions of starlings assemble in trees and their gathering is a noisy affair. They liven up the tree for a while with their raucous calls until a simultaneous decision is made to leave. Then, silence-- except for the beating of their wings in the air as they take off in solidarity. Their flight patterns amaze as they become one large shape shifter: a funneling cloud that brings to mind a tornado; then swirling into a whirlwind like a desert sandstorm; a string stretches out, then paisleys into a cloud-like form, separates and reunites --all the birds moving together as one great creature with one like mind in control.
Now it is January of 2012. The usual congregation of chickadees, finches and grosbeaks usually at my feeders have not appeared this year. Starlings are here every single day. When spring arrives and the bluebirds return, I may not have such a kind heart toward the starlings but for now, I am grateful for their company.
Link to a visual of a murmuration:
A large gathering of starlings is called a murmuration.