European Starling

Scientific Name: Sturnus vulgaris

Pictures: (click for larger images)

European Starling on the move!  Sidewalk near UCLA Medical Plaza.  April 2005.
European Starling on the roof of Kappa Delta Sorority.  March 2005.
A baby European Starling who left the nest before being able to fly.  This was at Covel Commons.  The parents were still around, but he couldn't get back up to the nest. 5-12-05
The nest was inaccesible, and a raven came down to try and make an easy meal of the baby.  We grabbed the baby and hid him in some bushes where he was able to hop into hiding.  The parents will still feed a nearby baby when they hear him call.  I hope he made it.

-Photos by Jason Finley

Description: Smallish-Medium.   8.5" in length (beak to tail), between a sparrow and a pigeon in size.  These guys look different depending on the season.  In Spring/Summer they look black from far away, but when you get closer you'll see that their feathers are iridescent, with some light speckling.  Their beaks, which look longish for their body size, are bright yellow in the Spring/Summer.  In Fall/Winter, their beaks turn dark brown, and their feathers turn lighter and look mottled with white. 

Sound: They can be heard making all sorts of noises, and even imitating other birds and random noises, though not as much as the Mockingbird.  Listen to a European Starling singing!  Link is to the sound page for this bird from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds.

Commonality/Seasonality: Common year round, but slightly less abundant than the House Finches or House Sparrows.

Location: Can be found across campus.  A few specific places where I've regularly seen them: the loading dock of Covel Commons (the dorms), at the intersection of Hilgard & Manning Ave on the East side of campus, on the grassy slopes near the Campus Corner eatery (formerly Taco Bell, now Shorty's Subs & Athena's Greek), and around Parking Lot 8 and the stadium lights there (next to Pauley Pavillion).  I also remember seeing some around when I lived in the Club California apartments on Roebling.  Oh yeah, and sometimes you can hear like secret armies of them in the trees in Westwood Village!

Notes: A.k.a. the "Pyoo Bird" for the silly "peEyOooo" sound it sometimes makes.  These guys are like little bird clowns and can be quite fun to watch and listen to.

Avicultural consultant Roger Caton hand raises starlings in Britain.  "People usually take them for granted," he says. "They're such common birds that they hardly merit a second glance. But if they were a rarity, everyone would enthuse about their striking markings and the iridescent sheen in their plumage. This can create colours ranging from green to purple, depending on the light."

HistoricalGet this, it's thought that European Starlings (originally a Eurasian species) were introduced into the U.S. by people who wanted to see all the birds mentioned in the works of Shakespeare introduced in the New World.  Supposedly, they released 100 birds in New York in 1890 and these birds flourished and spread rapidly from sea to shining sea.

The starlings are considered an invasive species and are somewhat controversial as they compete with native birds for holes in trees used for nests (although the extent of the harm to native species in unclear), and can deplete and contaminate crops and grain supplies when they descend in large numbers, sometimes flocks of thousands.  However, they also chow down on insects that ruin crops, so they're not all bad.  Still, they are often considered a nuisance due to being loud, especially in their large numbers.

All that said, the starling population at and around UCLA seems to be relatively small and not inclined toward hegemony, as far as my amateur's eye has seen.

The Starling isn't mentioned in "Birds of the Campus" so it must not have been around here back in 1947 or earlier.



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