I took this photo on a July afternoon when flocks of bird families were in the garden feeding. This is a growing juvenile starling and it was accompanied by about 15 others, with parents in tow.
Young Starling standing on a shed roof.
We’ve had a lot of them about this year, upwards of 50 at one point. Presumably, the neighbours got tired of all the noise from the bickering birds and stopped putting food out for them!
In the Summer, families of Starlings are at their most active in the gardens of England as they swoop on bird feeders to feed whilst the young family members are growing.
Young Starlings Need Lots of Food
The combination of a high-fat diet of seeds and berries with the need to keep their growing bodies warm makes the summer months a time of high energy consumption for young starlings.
To meet this increased energy demand, starling chicks grow rapidly during the warmer months, increasing in size from about 15% to about 50% of their adult size between hatching and fledging.
At the same time, their diet also changes from a milk-like consistency to a more solid and diverse one. This makes it much easier for them to digest the food and gives them a better source of energy to fuel their active lifestyles.
This switch in diet and a growing body also means that their demand for calcium increases and they start to search for calcium-rich foods.
Once they’ve grown and Autumn starts approaching, they fly off to the wilds and forage in their natural habitats a bit more, leaving the rest of our little flying friends to feed on suet and seeds put out by homeowners in their gardens.
Starlings always argue
Starlings are brutes to each other when there’s food at stake. They bicker and peck at each other in a quest for sustenance, although they tend to leave the other birds alone and are only aggressive towards each other.
They take all the food
Other birds suffer in Summer because young Starlings are so greedy. Whilst they don’t do it on purpose, or maliciously, they get so wrapped up in their own need to feed that they crowd out other species such as sparrows, tits and robins.
One way to counter this is to put out suet feeders for the starlings and seed feeders for the other birds, spacing them apart a bit.
Starlings don’t like seeds because the hard shells take too much effort to break down, whereas the suet is ideal. After all, it’s soft and easy to eat.
Starlings are endangered.
Starling’s are on the UK’s RSPB RED Conservation List. The Red List species are considered to be the most at risk of disappearing from the wild.
Some of our rarest birds, such as capercaillie and hen harriers, are listed on the Red List, which identifies birds that require our immediate attention. House sparrows and starlings, which have been severely reduced in numbers, are included, as well as numerous other species.
The most recent update to the BoCC report was published in November 2017 and covers more than 300 species of birds in the UK. It tells us how the status of our birds has changed since the last report was published in 2013. It also identifies those species that have been most negatively impacted and therefore require the most urgent conservation attention.
What can we do to protect endangered birds like Starlings in the UK?
To start, you can make your garden a more welcoming habitat for birds. Plant native species that provide food, water, and shelter for birds.
Trees and hedges are the best habitats for birds and part of the reason they’ve been in decline so much in the UK are because of trends like ripping out hedgerows and installing fences. In part to keep pets and kids secure, which is a must.
What most people don’t realise is that these structures are detrimental to their properties, as well as the environment. Hedgerows around a property keep soil from eroding, improve drainage, and help control water flow.
They also provide habitat for small animals and insects, help protect against harsh weather, and keep the soil fertile. Trees help with a variety of things around your property as well, including shade, dropping leaves that are great for compost, and improving the soil.
As custodians of the land, it is up to homeowners to take a stand if we are to see a return of wildlife in abundance here and restore a more healthy ecosystem.
For instance, there’s no reason you can’t have a fence and a hedgerow in a lot of instances. If homeowners planted hedges in front of fences or parts of fenced perimeters, it wouldn’t take long to have a beneficial effect. Maybe the biggest issue of all is how we make people aware?