Saturday, 17 November 2018

Starling Murmurations

A great article from the Cheshire Wildlife Trust e-newsletter…

Starling Murmuration

At this time of year, large numbers of starlings visit Britain from the continent, seeking out the relative warmth of our island climate. They reward our hospitality with a wonderful aerial ‘ballet’ called a murmuration.

Young Starling

After spending the day finding food, as dusk arrives starlings set off for their communal roost in one of the most staggering natural spectacles of all. Flocks arrive from all directions, gathering in the skies above their roost sites. As the numbers reach into thousands (sometimes millions), the murmurations take on incredible shapes in the sky, contracting and expanding as one flock merges into another. They take on a life of their own, swirling back and forth in ever more complex and beautiful patterns. These flocks are targeted by predators such as peregrine falcons, so it is thought starlings perform as one great murmuration to have safety in numbers.

As the numbers reach their peak and the last of the light fades, the birds suddenly decide the time is right, as if by a secret signal. They funnel down into their roosting site in one last whoosh of wings, and the show’s over. It’s bed time.

Adult Starling
Length: 22cm
Wingspan: 40cm
Weight: 78g
Average lifespan: 5 years
The starling is a familiar sight in our farmland, parkland, gardens and towns. Sociable birds, they spend a lot of their time in large flocks. They make untidy nests in holes in trees or in buildings, in which the female lays five to seven eggs. Both parents raise the chicks.

Conservation status 
Classified in the UK as Red under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015). Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.

How to identify
Adult starlings are a beautiful, oily black colour, with a purple and green sheen. In the winter, they are covered in tiny beige spots. Young starlings are dark grey-brown.

When to see
November – January

Over to you...

We’re lucky enough to be enjoying a sizable ‘ballet’ every afternoon at our Bickley Hall Farm headquarters. Take a look at one we recorded a few days ago on our Facebook page. These ‘dances’ can be seen in the coming months all across Cheshire at places like Marbury, Delamere and Rosthern.

We at Cheshire Wildlife Trust hope to support the 'dance' to continue and grow by managing nature reserves such as Marbury Reedbed and Bickley Hall Farm.
Be sure to catch this wonderful spectacle – why not join the dance?

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