The Starling is a familiar bird common across western and northern Europe. Starlings are widespread breeders throughout the continent, from northern Scandinavia to many Mediterranean countries and, of course, Britain and Ireland. Many hundreds of thousands of birds that spend the spring and summer in the north and east of Europe move westwards in the autumn and winter months to swell an already bulging population.
They are prolific breeders, making use of any possible hole, in a wall, roof or tree – they really are not too fussy. Particular favourite haunts are short-cropped areas of farmland, clifftops and gardens.
The Starling is a medium-sized passerine, slightly smaller than a Song Thrush, with a slender pointed bill, peaked head and a familiar quarrelsome manner. It is unmistakable.
At a quick glance, Starlings look wholly blackish, but close views show that the head and entire underparts have a distinctive purple iridescent gloss to the breast, fading into bottle-green on the flanks. The upperparts are also very dark, with fine flecks on the mantle, rump and wings. Male Starlings show fewer spots compared with the female. The bill is yellow and the legs and feet are pink.
In winter, adult Starlings change slightly from their glossy summer garb. Both sexes appear quite spotty, with buffy spots on the upperparts, whitish on the underparts, females tending to have bolder markings. The bill changes from yellow to mainly brown.
When they begin moulting to their more adult-like first-winter plumage, young Starlings can appear most odd in a ‘half and half’ transitional mode. By October most of the juveniles have undergone their transformation.
The juvenile Starling appears wholly buffy grey-brown, except for a whitish throat, greyish mottling on the underparts and gingery fringes to the wings. The bill is silveryblack, the eye is black and the legs and feet are horn-brown.