Friday, January 6, 2006

The Starlings of Winter

Friday, January 6, 2006
It happens every year in mid-winter--the starlings descend on our feeders. We try to keep them at bay, but starlings have more physical ability than the Circ du Soleil acrobats. especially when it comes to getting to food at feeders, such as the suet we put out for our woodpeckers.

They crowd the edges of our suet dough dish, shouldering all other feeder visitors out of the way. They gobble down huge chunks of the soft suet dough, squabbling amongst themselves in a crazy feeding melee that empties the large plastic dish in a few minutes.

We tap on the kitchen window to spook them off the feeder, but they're back moments later. Moving the feeder closer to our kitchen window seems to help a little. Then only the boldest, most brazen starlings will visit the feeder. If we don't spook them for a while, we may have 30 or 40 birds on and around the feeder, eating whatever suet dough bits they can find.

Today's cold and snow brought the starling flock to our yard. They were a spooky bunch and I'm not sure if it was our tapping on the window or the unseen pass of an accipiter that made then nervous. If they are still here tomorrow, I'll try to get a photo of the feeding frenzy. In the meantime, I'll share with you a digiscoped photo of a starling that nested in our screech owl box last summer. I think breeding plumaged starlings are good-looking birds in spite of they hyper-competitive nature.