Darling starling


Sturnus vulgaris: an ill-fitting name
for so genial a bird (though you’re not quite tame)
From treetop to rooftop on sorties incessant
With firework-like feathers of dark iridescence.


The second verse was worse, so I’ll spare you.

The last place I lived was populated more by smaller Irish birds such as finches, pipits, tits, stonechats and wagtails; I’d forgotten just how noisy blackbirds and starlings can be.

Not that I mind. The starlings nesting in the roof are the first thing I hear when I wake up, and they hardly stop chattering all day. Or maybe one of them is making all the noise. The only time it’s not whistling, clicking or chirruping is when it has a juicy meal in its bill.

Because I eat in the garden whenever possible, I have to beware of aerial bombardment. To date I have been splatted only once, which makes me feel very lucky, though in the immediate aftermath of these events it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that the bird did it deliberately, out of mischief.

16 Responses to Darling starling

  1. Beautiful photo, Stan: starlings are lovely birds (if noisy!). I remember once, several years ago, sitting down with a full pint of ale at an outdoor table by a river. As I took in the ambience, there was a visible plop and I realised that a pigeon in the tree above had just emptied his bowels with admirable accuracy into my as-yet untouched drink. Since then, while sitting outdoors, I always cover my drink with a beer-mat…

  2. Stan says:

    Thanks, Doubtful. I recorded a starling chattering on the roof earlier today, but the sound quality was too poor to upload. I’ll try again if I get a chance. Good pigeon story! It was clearly malicious.

  3. Sean Jeating says:

    To start with the end:
    Ha ha ha, D.E.; I do feel tempted to thank this anonymous pigeon for enabling you to tell such a nice anecdote. … ha ha ha, still caughing …

    Coming to the beginning’s end: Glad I did not spill my tea. For sure, Stan, mischief it was. Ha ha ha …

    And finally for something completely different: No word about earthworms, tonight.

  4. I like starlings even if they are noisy devils.

    No vulgar(is) bird is our starling
    compared to vultures he’s a darling
    He’s garrulous as you well know
    with a voice more pleasing than a crow

  5. Stan says:

    Sean: The evidence on the ground around the deckchairs suggests that I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but when such evidence lands in a wet unexpected mess on the top of your head, down the back of your neck, or in your fresh pint of ale, the next moment is naturally tinged with cosmic or karmic paranoia. Here’s a cartoon you might enjoy.

    Jams: Excellent! Thank you. They do raise quite a cackling commotion, but I don’t mind a bit. Magpies, on the other hand…

  6. absurdoldbird says:

    These are the imitators amongst the masses of common birdlies… often difficult to know if one’s hearing a specific bird or just a starling that is imitating it. I like your photos – the bird appears to be in the process of changing from its winter gear to its summer garb.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that, to a bird, being annointed with crap is a compliment!

  7. Fran says:

    If I ever come round for tea, can we sit inside?

  8. wisewebwoman says:

    With your choice of bird, I will not dicker,
    Best bang for my buck is the Northern Flicker.


  9. Claudia says:

    This worm story is for Sean Jeating (see his recent two posts):

    Very early one morning two birds are sitting at the side of a large puddle of oil. They see an earthworm on the other side. So…the one flies over, the other one swims through. Which one gets to the worm first? The one who swam, of course, because “da oily boid gets da woim.”

    Well…it’s not worse than all the crap stories!!!

    I love your birds photos, Stan. And I prefer the incessant birds’ chatter to the human one in a mall. Cheers! Et bonne chance avec sturnus vulgaris.

  10. Tim says:

    I didn’t even have to go look at that cartoon to know exactly which Farside one you were referring to. It’s one of those ones you never forget. >.<

    Not a bird person myself. Last bird photo I took was of some parrots at the zoo. They weren't in a cage, either, but just chilling near the picnic area: http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/MKF72OcWUEnt2ggq-xRi0g?feat=directlink

  11. Stan says:

    Absurdoldbird: Yes, it has characteristics of both seasons on display. A lovely mix, I think. If you care to, you’ll find more along these lines via the birds and nature photography tags in the sidebar. Next time I’m anointed I’ll try to remember to be flattered!

    Fran: If you insist. Or you can borrow my umbrella if you don’t have a bonnet that you don’t mind placing in the line of fire.

    WWW: What a fine creature!

    This type of woodpecker, I have no doubt
    Is a noisy fecker, up north or down south.

    Claudia: That’s not a bad joke, and if it is, well, I like bad jokes almost as much as good ones. And I agree: bird chatter is easier on the ear than its human equivalent, especially at high volume.

    Tim: It’s a classic Far Side idea and image. Thanks for the photo — parrots are lovely birds, and have colours to match. Smart, too.

  12. Michele says:

    Hi Stan,
    Lovely photo. I’ve always liked starlings, too. Don’t know if it’s the same where you are, but on this side of the Atlantic their feathers are iridescent and they wheel around the sky in tremendous flocks. Now blackbirds are something else altogether. Have you read the recent studies about how smart they are? Never be rude to one, or it will remember you and harass you at every opportunity.

  13. Stan says:

    Hi Michele! Thanks for stopping by. European starlings’ feathers are beautifully iridescent. This morning I had breakfast in the garden and watched them on the lawn as they moved in and out of the sunlight, which made a huge difference to the appearance of their coats. I’m not sure what blackbird studies you’re referring to.

  14. Michele says:

    Sounds like starlings are very similar here and there. I can see some right now as I look out my window — every now and again they pop up above the rooftop across the street. (They nest in the park a block away.) Busy little things.

    Re: blackbirds — or, more accurately, ravens, crows and their relations — read this. I bet you will never think of them in quite the same way. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/26/science/26crow.html

  15. Stan says:

    They are very busy creatures! All chatter and industry. Thanks for the link. I thought you might have meant the corvids, but since you specified blackbirds, I wondered if I had missed something. There’s an amazing chapter in Konrad Lorenz’s King Solomon’s Ring about corvid behaviour and intelligence.

  16. Michele says:

    Yes, apologies, I realized belatedly that I was talking about ravens, crows and other black birds (and relatives of other colors), not blackbirds. Have never read Lorenz, but I clearly should.

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