Starling Invasion

 The non-native, much-maligned, and beautiful European Starling.

There are usually a few European Starlings roosting overnight in the spruce trees near my house during the winter.  Then, starting in late January, there is a big influx of starlings as the first returning migrants arrive.  For the last ten weeks, there have been hundreds around the neighbourhood every evening.

The starlings start appearing at about sunset.  Most of them settle first in bare deciduous trees, and they move around in small groups from tree to tree, with very little noise.  (It’s when they disperse in the morning that they show off their incredible vocal skills.)  Within an hour or so, as it is getting dark, they have all moved deep into spruce trees to roost  quietly for the night.  You’d never know they were there.

There are already dozens of European Starlings hidden in this spruce tree.  (The singing bird is a House Finch.)

 

Starlings arriving in their nighttime roost during Saturday’s snowstorm. 

I wondered if the masses of birds that appear at dusk each day were all local birds that disperse to feed during the day and return at night, or if they were new migrants arriving.  When they arrive, they don’t seem to come from any particular direction, and often seem to appear in the trees out of nowhere.  I’ve seen them drop down from such a great height that they first appear as tiny dots.  It seems that it is a new batch of migrating birds each night.  There is nothing special about the trees near my yard, and there are starlings landing in every tree I can see for blocks around.  I can’t even guess at how many there might be in the whole city.  But starlings are one of our most numerous birds, and recently there was a flock of tens of thousands seen in High River. 

It will be interesting to hear if other people are seeing such big flocks of starlings in the city.

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

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