Thursday, 7 May 2015

Staring at Starlings

An increasing amount of my time is being taken up by my Starling RAS project and as it is based on birds that visit the garden it is keeping me at home. My core study period is fairly short and runs from mid April to the end of May which is the main incubation and nestling period for Starlings in this area. The population is at its most static at this time as breeding pairs are tied to their respective nest sites and this limits their foraging range. This is one of the main requirements for this type of study and more information on RAS projects can be found here.

Adult Starling probing the lawn for invertebrates such as leatherjackets. They probe the ground with an open bill which they snap shut if prey is detected.
An adult was first seen carrying food back to a nest site on 27th April so those chicks will be just over half grown now. The eggs of many other pairs have hatched since and most adults are now busily collecting food for their rapidly growing chicks. The first young should fledge by the middle of this month with the majority fledging over the following 2 to 3 weeks. Adults are fairly easy to catch when they are feeding young and I attract them into the garden with fat cakes made from beef dripping, finely chopped peanuts and meal worms. Since the middle of April I have caught 44 adult Starlings and 23 of those had been ringed in previous years with the oldest birds having been ringed in 2011.

They really are good looking birds.
All the study birds are now being ringed with an individually numbered colour ring in addition to the usual numbered BTO metal ring. This allows birds to be identified as individuals by observing them with binoculars or a telescope and means they won't need to be caught again for the purposes of the study. However it does mean I will be spending a lot of time staring at the Starlngs in the garden each breeding season for years to come.

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