The starling is related to the myna although one comes from India and one from Europe. Starlings and many other birds sing notes that are so high we humans cannot hear them. They are good mimics and will copy noises they hear about them, adding these sounds into their songs. Captive starling can be taught to repeat words, phrases and sing songs.
The starling got its name because tiny white flecks on its dark glossy feathers look like stars in the night sky. Both male and female are alike in size and colour. The base of the beak of a male is blue and a female’s is pink. They have short tails and are very noisy birds.
When settlers first cleared the land there was an enormous increase in insects and birds like the starling were introduced in an attempt to reduce insect numbers. Around 1,000 birds were introduced to New Zealand from the 1860s to the 1880s. Some farmers encourage starlings to prey on grass grubs by placing nest boxes around fields.
It helps control unwanted insects, including ticks on cattle and sheep, and crop pests such as caterpillars and grasshoppers. They move on the ground in a waddling walk and not a hop like the larger blackbird.
On the other hand starlings can be a nuisance. When they are not looking after young birds they flock together and roost in the same tree. In cities their droppings fall on cars and pavements, they also compete with tui and bellbird for flower nectar and damage grapes and other fruit.
- Radio NZ Bird Watching – Starling
- NZ Birds Online starling page
- The Encyclopedia of New Zealand starling and myna page
- Wildscreen Arkive starling page
- Oiseaux-birds starling page