Bird Families

Horned starling


Earring starling (Creatophora cinerea) is about the size of a common starling, but very different in appearance. The predominant color of the plumage of the earring starling is ocher-gray with a light undertail, the wings and tail are black with a greenish and bronze tint. On the sides of the neck there are unfeathered patches of greenish-yellow skin. The forehead, crown, lateral and facial parts of the head, chin are not feathered, bare skin in these places is dark yellow.

By Brian Ralphs - originally posted to Flickr as 2009-03-15 Kalahara Nossop 203, CC BY 2.0, w / index.php? Curid = 7865641

Males have fleshy outgrowths on their foreheads in the very center of the crown of the head - "earrings" (reminiscent of the comb of a rooster), for which the birds got their name. Large, thick, slightly curved yellowish beak, strong pinkish-white legs. Females differ from males by the absence of "earrings", which males also lose during the extramarital period, in addition, females are slightly lighter than males. Earring starlings are widespread in South and East Africa, in Arabia.

During the breeding season, beautiful aerial games of these starlings can often be observed. These are colonial birds. The nest is usually arranged in the upper part of the tree and is a rough domed structure, often on one tree many nests are piled up next to each other. If there are no suitable trees or shrubs, nests are set up on the ground, in the natural depressions of the soil. Usually there are 2-3 eggs in a clutch, but sometimes there are 4 or even 5. They are blue with brownish specks and spots.

In Africa, these birds are called locust starlings, as they follow in huge flocks the swarm of locusts that adult birds feed on and on which they feed their chicks. The timing and places of breeding of catkins depends to a great extent on the movement of the swarms of locusts: the birds start nesting where and when the swarm of locusts stops for reproduction.

As soon as the swarm of locusts begins to move, birds, often with chicks that have not yet learned to fly, begin to move after it with the same speed. In addition to locusts, these starlings also eat grasshoppers, termites, various caterpillars and fruits.

Source: Animal Life. Birds, edited by Professors N.A. Gladkov, A.V. Mikheev. Volume 5

Horned starling

The body length is 19 to 21 cm. The tail is short. The plumage is predominantly gray. Only the tail is white. The tail and wings are black. Beak and legs are light gray. The male has an unfeathered yellow spot on the head behind the eye and under it, and there is also an unfeathered black patch of skin on the throat. During the breeding season, the male may drop feathers on his head and nape and form large hanging "earrings" on his throat. In some individuals, such "catkins" also appear on top of the beak. The shape and size of the earrings differ individually. However, their appearance probably increases with the age of the bird, and even older females sometimes develop small "catkins".

1. Distribution

A nomadic species that lives in the east and south of the African continent. The range of the species has expanded in recent years to West Africa and now birds can be observed both in the Arabian Peninsula and in Madagascar and the Seychelles. The natural habitat of the species is meadows, light forests and cultivated lands.

2. Nutrition

They are omnivorous birds, specializing in some regions for migratory locusts. In addition, they feed on other invertebrates, berries and seeds. Can cause significant damage to vineyards.

3. Reproduction

The birds nest in colonies, sometimes teaming up with Cape weavers.The nest is always built on trees or bushes, mainly on acacias at a height of 1 to 10 m above the ground. It is built from twigs and laid out from the inside with grass and feathers. In a clutch of 2 to 5, however, there are usually 3 or 4 pale blue eggs. Both parent birds are involved in nest building, as well as hatching and feeding chicks. The incubation period lasts 11 days. Young birds leave the nest in 13 - 16 days. They still do not know how to fly at this age and therefore very often during this period they become prey of daytime birds of prey.

Description and features

Bird starling small in size, it is often compared in appearance to the blackbird. The length of a bird is not more than 22 cm, weight is about 75 g, wingspan is about 37-39 cm. The body is massive, with dark plumage shining in the sun with small specks of light color, more noticeable in the spring of females. A scattering of white or cream spots is especially evident during the molting period, later the plumage becomes almost uniform.

The tail of the birds is short, only 6-7 cm. The color includes a metallic sheen. The effect is achieved thanks not to the pigment present, but to the feather structure itself. Depending on the angle, lighting, the color of the plumage changes shades.

In different species of starlings, the ebb in the sun can be purple, bronze, green, blue. The legs of birds are always reddish-brown, with curved claws.

The bird's head is proportional to the body, the neck is short. The beak is very sharp, long, slightly curved downward, flattened from the sides, black, but in the mating season it changes color to yellow. The chicks have only a brown-black beak. Their youth is given by rounded wings, a light neck and the absence of a metallic gloss in their color.

There are slight differences between females and males. You can recognize the male by lilac specks on the beak and long feathers on the chest, and the female by red specks, short feathers of an elegant shape. The flight of starlings is smooth and fast.

Singing starlings differ from blackbirds by their ability to run on the ground, and not jump. You can recognize a starling by the manner of singing - he often shakes his wings during the performance of the part.

The ability to imitate the voices of other birds and animals turns an ordinary starling into an extraordinary artist. He can "speak" with the voices of different birds:

  • orioles,
  • quail,
  • jays,
  • lark,
  • swallows,
  • warblers,
  • bluethroats,
  • thrush,
  • duck, rooster and chicken, etc.

More than once we observed starlings that arrived in the spring and sang with the voices of tropical birds. The birds reproduce the creak of a gate, the sound of a typewriter, the clicking of a whip, the bleating of sheep, the croaking of marsh frogs, the meow of cats, and a dog barking.

Singing starling framed by the shrill squealing of his own voice. Adult birds “accumulate” their repertoire, generously share their luggage.

Listen to the voice of a starling

Lifestyle and habitat

The songbird is known in the vast territory of Eurasia, South Africa, Australia. The resettlement took place thanks to man. The starling is found in Turkey, India, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran. Rooting of starlings was difficult in Central and South America. Many birds died, but some took root there too.

Information about which starling, migratory or wintering bird, depends on their distribution. The birds living in the south-west of Europe are sedentary, and common in the northeastern part are migratory, always flying south in winter.

Seasonal migrations are typical for starlings from Belgium, Holland, Poland, Russia. Flights of the first batches begin in September and end by November. For winter quarters, birds move to the southern regions of Europe, to India, and the northwestern regions of Africa.

Brave birds cover distances from 100 to 1-2 thousand kilometers. Birds need 1-2 stops during the day. Flights over the seas are always associated with great risk. An entire flock of birds can be killed by a hurricane.

Sometimes starlings find salvation on sea vessels, descending on decks in huge numbers. According to superstitious omens and beliefs of sailors, the death of even one bird on a ship threatens to be flooded. Starlings are always under the protection of those at sea.

Birds that have flown in from afar are not always welcome because of the noise they create. So, the inhabitants of Rome close their windows in the evenings so as not to hear the crackling chirping of birds, which is even louder than the sounds of passing cars. Starlings in winter gather in huge colonies, numbering more than a million individuals.

Starlings can gather in numerous flocks

In the spring, in March and early April, during the active melting of snow, the first inhabitants who returned home appear. In the northern regions, they can be seen at the end of April or in May. If the birds have returned, and the cold does not recede, then many are in danger of death.

Males appear first, choosing places for future nesting. Females arrive a little later. During the mating season, birds look for trees with old hollows for arranging nests or occupy niches of various buildings.

Starling in spring very fighting, active. With other birds, he does not stand on ceremony, aggressively reclaims a convenient site for nesting, survives neighbors. There are known cases of crowding out of red-headed woodpeckers and rolling rollers in their homes.

The starlings themselves also have enough enemies. They are tasty prey for peregrine falcons, eagles, golden eagles. Nests are often ruined by earthly predators, even crows and magpies are not averse to feasting on eggs and nestlings of starlings.

Birds are sociable among themselves, live in colonies. Numerous flocks of starlings can be seen in flight, where they simultaneously hover, turn around and land, loosely capturing large areas on the ground.

Spend the nights in groups in dense thickets of reeds, willows of coastal zones, on the branches of garden or park bushes, trees.

The habitat of starlings is flat areas with swamps, rivers and other bodies of water. Nesting birds are found in woodlands, steppe zones, near human settlements, farm buildings.

Birds are attracted by field lands as potential food supplies. Starlings avoid mountainous areas, uninhabited territories. Human activity provides birds with food.

Sometimes massive raids of starlings cause damage to grain crops, berry fields. Large flocks can threaten flight safety. Yet people have always appreciated the singers for the destruction of field pests: beetles, caterpillars, locusts, slugs, gadflies. Setting up birdhouses has always been a kind of invitation for birds to visit farmland.

Scientists argue about the taxonomy of starling subspecies, since small differences in plumage and size can be difficult to determine by the appearance of the bird. There are 12 main varieties, the most famous in our country are the common starling (shpak), small starling, gray and Japanese (red-cheeked). Starlings are distinguished by their characteristic appearance with striking features:

  • pink,
  • earring,
  • Indian (myna),
  • buffalo (dragging),
  • black-winged.

Pastor got its name because of its characteristic color. Pink breast, abdomen, sides, back framed by black wings, head, neck create a spectacular outfit for a spring bird. Starling in the photo as if in a festive dress. The movement of a flock of pink birds is like a floating pink cloud. The main food of these birds is locusts.

One bird needs almost 200 g of insects per day, which is twice the weight of the starling itself. Birds settle near semi-desert plains and steppes, and nest in rock crevices, burrows, rocky shelters. Pink starlings are unusually peaceful, there are no bird fights between them.

The earring (horned) starling lives exclusively in Africa. It got its name for the fleshy growths on the heads of males that appear during the breeding season. The growths resemble cockscombs in appearance.

This species nests on tree branches, creating domed houses. Schools of cattle starlings feed only on locusts, therefore they follow it if the insects are removed from their place. The color of starlings is predominantly gray.

Indian starling (myna). The Asian bird is also sometimes called the Afghan starling. All names are associated with a wide distribution of birds. The color of the plumage is dominated by black, but the end of the tail and the leading edge of the wing are with a white edging.

The bird's beak, "glasses" around the eyes and legs are yellow. Maina is gradually settling, capturing new territories. We met the bird in Kazakhstan and other places in Central Asia. The mockingbird talent made myna popular in urban environments, and many began to keep starlings in their home environment. The bird's charm and sociability contribute to the further spread of the Indian starling.

Indian starling or myna

Buffalo starlings (dragging). African sedentary birds are brown in color with a fan-shaped tail. You can recognize these starlings by their orange eyes and red beak. They are irreplaceable orderlies of wild and domestic animals.

Birds settle on the bodies of buffaloes, rhinos, antelopes and other four-legged inhabitants and collect ticks, flies, gadflies and other parasites that have dug into the skin and settled in the fur of animals.

Starlings examine bodies like woodpeckers do trunks, hanging upside down on their belly or sneaking into tight folds on the body. The animals do not offer resistance, knowing that the pecking of the birds will only benefit them.

Black-winged starlings. Endemic islands in Indonesia, savannah inhabitants. Rare representatives listed in the Red Book due to human extermination. Black-winged starlings were caught for sale for home keeping, thereby exterminating the population in nature.

The contrasting color of the bird is unusual: the white plumage of the body and head is combined with black wings and tail. On the top of the head is a small tuft of feathers. The yellowish skin frames the eyes, the legs and beak are the same color. It dwells mainly on pastures for livestock, agricultural land, and keeps away from human habitation. In search of food, it makes nomadic flights.

Currently, the bird is kept in protected areas of reserves, where starlings do not refuse to borrow prepared birdhouses for nesting. But their number is still very small.


Skvortsov are considered omnivorous birds, in the diet of which both plant and animal food. The following organisms are the source of proteins for birds:

  • snails,
  • caterpillars,
  • insect larvae,
  • butterflies,
  • earthworms,
  • grasshoppers,
  • spiders,
  • symphiles.

In the spring, immediately after the snow melts, starlings find food on thawed patches, in secluded wintering places of insects - in cracks in the bark of trees. With warming, the hunt for arthropods and worms begins.

In plant foods, starlings prefer berries and fruits. There are always a lot of birds in apple and cherry orchards, they will not give up ripe plums and pears.

It is interesting that the birds open the tough skin or shell of nuts according to all the laws of physics - they punch a small hole, insert the beak and open the fruit according to the rule of a lever to get to the contents. In addition to juicy fruits, starlings use plant seeds and grain crops.

Starlings can cause damage to agriculture if huge flocks begin to dominate the field. Messengers of spring are moderately useful for planting, but the columns of birds become a threat to future crops.

Reproduction and life expectancy

The mating season opens in early spring for sedentary birds; migratory birds start mating after returning home. The duration of nesting depends on weather conditions, food supply. In some regions, birds lay eggs three times per season due to the polygyny of starlings.

Starling chicks

Starling nest can be found in the old hollow, former buildings of large birds - herons, white-tailed eagles.Ready-made birdhouses also live in. The female is called upon by special singing.

Starlings form several pairs during the season, caring for several chosen ones at once. Both future parents are engaged in construction. Feathers, twigs, wool, leaves, roots serve as the material for the litter.

Each clutch contains 4-7 blue eggs. Incubation lasts 12-13 days. The male sometimes replaces the female during this period. The nesting area is carefully guarded within a radius of 10 meters. Food is found far from the place of incubation - on the shores of reservoirs, in populated areas, vegetable gardens, fields.

Starling laying in the nest

The appearance of chicks is almost silent, you can learn about the offspring by the shells thrown to the ground. To feed the newborns, both parents fly away for food. In the first days of life, chicks eat soft food, later they switch to hard insects.

The growing chicks develop in the nest for 21-23 days, then they begin to gain independence, stray into small flocks. If a starling chick is in no hurry to grow up, the parents lure him out of the nest with food.

Under natural conditions, the life of a starling under favorable conditions lasts up to 12 years. Russian scientists have documented this. In a well-cared home environment, birds live even longer.

Many give birth to starlings and easily tame birds that lose their fear of humans. They take food from their palms, sit on their shoulders, observe what is happening close to a person. Pets in communication easily imitate human voices, reproduce other sounds.

Bird watchers believe that the native voice of a starling is a drawn-out whistle, sharp and loud. Pets are loved for their kind character and liveliness of behavior. Fidgets are playful, curious, and create a good mood with their parody concerts.