A large number of blog readers have been emailing photos and leaving comments this week, asking about the large numbers of ‘black’ birds in their yard. The answer to everyone is that they are European Starlings.
Large flocks of up to 100 birds at a time have been reported from many south east communities, and just outside the city. They are generally mentioned as visiting apple trees, crab apple trees, or in my case, a mountain ash tree loaded with berries. This winter fruit is heavily relied upon by native birds such as Bohemian Waxwings and American Robins that overwinter here, which is one reason many birders do not like to see Starlings in their yard.
First brought to North America by Shakespeare enthusiasts in the nineteenth century, European Starlings are now among the continent’s most numerous songbirds. They are stocky black birds with short tails, triangular wings, and long, pointed bills. Though they’re sometimes resented for their abundance and aggressiveness, they’re still dazzling birds when you get a good look. Covered in white spots during winter, they turn dark and glossy in summer. For much of the year, they wheel through the sky and mob lawns in big, noisy flocks.