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Posts Tagged ‘starlings’

BIRDNOTE_European-Starling-flowers-Josh-Levinson-C2A9

Photo: Josh Levinson
The European Starling is thought to adorn its nest with flowers to ward off pests.

One of my favorite shows is Living on Earth, an environmental program recorded in Greater Boston and produced by Public Radio International (PRI). One of the show’s regular features is called BirdNote, and you can learn a lot about individual species just from that.

The Living on Earth website recently posted this:

“STEVE CURWOOD: European Starlings can often be found scrounging through the grass of a backyard or a nearby park for tasty treats. But now and then, they’ll also pluck a marigold or other bright flower to bring back to the nest. These flowers aren’t just for decoration, as Michael Stein explains in this week’s BirdNote. It appears to bring health benefits to their young.

“It’s Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.

curwood

“European Starlings famously travel in massive flocks, up to one hundred thousand birds strong at times. They can almost resemble a school of fish moving together in a squeaky symphony. And, BirdNote’s Michael Stein reports that when starlings are paired up and raising chicks they have an unusual way to keep their nest clean and healthy. …

“MICHAEL STEIN: Watch long enough, though, and you may see a starling pause in the hunt to neatly pluck a marigold or other bright flower – and then fly up to deposit the bloom in the nest.

“How romantic. But there’s more to it. Ornithologists have found that starlings regularly adorn their twig nests with fresh vegetation – the more fragrant the better. Marigolds, of course, but also elderberry flowers, yarrow leaves, and even willow bark.

“All of which – as your nose will tell you – are full of aromatic chemicals. The starlings are actually fumigating their nests. Why? The chemicals have been thought to help discourage pests and parasites. Scientists have discovered that the smelly plants may offer an even more direct benefit to nestlings – by stimulating their immune systems.
It turns out that starlings hatched in well-fumigated nests tend to weigh more and live longer than those raised without benefit of fragrant herbs.” More.

For another Living on Earth BirdNote, click here. This one is about a Laysan Albatross called Wisdom who was still producing chicks in 2018, despite the fact her 67 years made her quite old for her species. Who knew the Albatross could live so long?

This might be a good time to remind you how Coleridge used an Albatross in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner to send a message — not just to the stunned and speechless wedding guest but to us all:

Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.

Photo: Kiah Walker, USFWS, CC
Wisdom the Laysan Albatross was still producing chicks at age 67. She doesn’t even look tired.
BIRNOTE_ALBTROSS_FLYING

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Photo: PA/Owen Humphries
Murmuration of starlings over Gretna, Scotland

Starlings swarm in flash mobs over Scotland every November and February, and they don’t even need social media to remind them it’s time.

According to an article at the BBC, “Tens of thousands of the birds are regularly seen around this time of year near the Dumfries and Galloway town. It is one of the most famous locations for the natural spectacle, the reason for which is not definitively known.

“A survey of the birds across the UK is currently under way with members of the public urged to record sightings. The poll, conducted by the University of Gloucestershire and the Society of Biology, is the first of its kind and has already received more than 600 reports from Cornwall to John O’Groats.

“Dr Anne Goodenough, reader in applied ecology at Gloucestershire University, said: ‘One of the theories behind the murmurations is that it means they are safer from predators such as hawks and falcons.

” ‘Another theory could be they are signalling a large roost and it could be a way of attracting other birds to that area to build up a big flock as it would be warmer. It’s much warmer to roost as a big group rather than a smaller one and the murmurations can be as big as 100,000 birds.’ ”

More here. Don’t miss the other amazing photos at the BBC site.

YouTube video: DylanWinter@virgin.net

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