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Starlings belong to the Palaearctic genus (the Palaearctic region, being a biogeographic region, arose in the Paleogene era and covers Europe, part of Asia and North Africa) songbirds from the starling family.
The starling family includes more than one hundred species, which are divided into 25-32 genera. Representatives of all these species are characterized by average sizes, as well as a similar lifestyle and plumage color.
The beak of a starling can be described as straight, long and strong. The tip of the beak of these birds is slightly flattened. Starlings have a straight, short tail. The wings are sharp.
In Russia, the common starling (shpak) is very common. Currently, the habitat of this bird is expanding. The common starling is found only in flat areas, does not rise high in the mountains. Shpak is endowed with a wide range of sounds. Common starlings can imitate the song of other birds, as well as reproduce many other sounds.
The common starling is a migratory bird. The extent of migration (at least in Europe) depends on climatic conditions; the distance from the nesting site to the wintering site of shpaks can reach two thousand kilometers. Juveniles often go to winter in mid-June, while most common starlings start their journey only in mid-October.
The breeding season for common starlings begins in early spring. If the spats migrate, the mating season begins immediately after their arrival from the wintering grounds. The number of eggs in a clutch usually varies from four to six. The chicks of common starlings are born completely helpless and in the first days of their life do not create any noise.
Starlings are omnivorous birds, that is, these birds consume both food of plant and animal origin. Settlements of common starlings consist of small colonies of birds huddled in flocks. A. Shapoval and V. Paevsky, after conducting the relevant research, recorded that the average life expectancy of shpakov in their natural living conditions reaches twelve years.
The common starling is related to pink starlings. The presence of water nearby is a prerequisite for the nesting of the pink starling.
The gray starling is also a songbird of the starling family. The gray starling is a schooling bird. It nests in colonies, and sleeps and feeds in groups. The diet of gray starlings includes both plant and animal food. True, with the availability of both, gray starlings still prefer food of animal origin.
In Russia, the most famous common starling. Its second name is shpak. Mainly, the common starling inhabits the areas of mixed and deciduous forests, but much more often this bird can be seen in the cult landscape. The distribution area of shpak is constantly expanding thanks to man - this applies not only to those continents on which the common starling has lived for a long time, but also to such continents as North America and Australia. The common starling population in North America is currently very large. Shpak is already unsurprising in New Zealand and South Africa. This bird can often be found on many oceanic islands, that is, those territories where the shpak did not live before. The common starling has a wide distribution area. It is not limited to any one biogeographic region, on the contrary, it is distributed in all but the Neotropical region, that is, in South and Central America. The common starling is found only in flat areas, it does not rise high in the mountains, although it is very tolerant in choosing a habitat for shpak. An ordinary starling often equips itself with housing near farms in rural areas or in settlements. Shpaka can often be seen in salt marshes, swamps or coastal areas, as well as steppes and woodlands. In terms of settlement, common starlings avoid those places that are inaccessible to humans. During the breeding season, shpak equips nests in niches of buildings or tree hollows. At this time, spats need sown fields as a forage area.
The common starling is a small bird. Body length ranges from 18.7 to 21.2 centimeters. The wingspan, as a rule, almost reaches thirty-nine centimeters. Weight is approximately equal to seventy-five grams. The neck is short, and the body is rather massive. The common starling is endowed with a long beak (unlike blackbirds, the beak is not as powerful), which is slightly curved downward. For most of the year, the beak is black, which nevertheless changes to yellow during the breeding season. The base of the wings of the common thrush is wide, and their end is narrowed, the length of the wings is short. The tail is short. Its length is just over six centimeters.
The female and the male are of the same color. The back of the neck, breasts and back have black plumage with a characteristic metallic sheen. However, in some subspecies, the plumage may have a bluish, purple, greenish or bronze hue. In winter, the tips of the feathers are grinded at the starlings. That is why specks become noticeable on the body of these birds, which have a cream or white shade. The specks are larger on the outer part of the wings and on the breast. Spring molt is the reason why the color of starlings becomes monotonously brown. In appearance, you can still distinguish the female of the common starling from the male. In males, breast feathers are elongated. In the female, feathers on the breast are graceful and short. In addition, the male has a bluish spot at the base of the beak. Females have reddish specks at the base of the beak.
The common starling is endowed with a wide range of sounds. This range includes squeaks, whistles, rattles and other noises and even meows. Shpaki can imitate the singing of other birds. Common starlings, found in North America, easily reproduce the sounds of the crying plover, eastern forest beer, virgin partridge, and eastern meadow corpse. Russian scientists have found that shpaki can imitate larks, quails, bluethroats, swallows, orioles, blackbirds, jays, warblers and other birds. Common starlings can even reproduce the croaking of a frog. It is not uncommon for the shpaks returning from the south in spring to suddenly sing with the voices of subtropical birds. In Central Asia and Kazakhstan, starlings can also be expected to imitate the bleating of sheep and the clicking of a whip. The naturalist writer M. Zverev, choosing the starling as the theme of his story, described how the spak absolutely correctly imitated the sounds that are made when typing on a typewriter.
The common starling is a migratory bird. The extent of migration (at least in Europe) depends on climatic conditions. In addition, the tendency to migrate in the common starling increases as it moves from west to east and north. For example, in Ireland and Great Britain, birds are predominantly sedentary. In the Netherlands, only about twenty percent of the birds remain for the winter. The rest of them winters in an area of five hundred kilometers from the place of birth - these can be Belgium, Northern France, England. In the Russian Federation, almost all starlings are migratory birds. The distance between the nesting site and winter apartments can be from one to two thousand kilometers. Flocks of starlings flying to the nesting site can be very large. And this is not only a truly impressive sight. The local population experiences some inconvenience from such flocks of birds. For example, during the arrival of starlings, the population of the city of Rome, as far as possible, tries not to appear on the street in the evening. At this time, the hum of shpaks may well drown out even the noise of transport. As a rule, spats return to their nesting sites in early spring, that is, at a time when the ground is still covered with snow, and some individuals return to their homeland at the end of winter. And only at the beginning of May the migration of common starlings in the north of their natural range is completed. An interesting fact is that males are the first to arrive. And only a few days after them, the females of the common starling return. Autumn migration begins at the beginning of autumn. This is the end time for the autumn molt. The peak of the autumn migration of the common starling occurs in mid-October. It was noted that young starlings go to winter earlier than nesting individuals - often in early July.
Common starlings form large flocks. Sometimes you get the opportunity to look at this unusual picture. Common starlings are very adept at maneuvering in the air. There are times when several thousand spanks synchronously repeat turns one after another, and then the whole flock elegantly land on the surface. Naturally, the birds are scattered over a very large area. However, the populations of starlings consist of small colonies of birds huddled in flocks. A common starling colony usually includes several pairs of these birds. For spending the night shpaks again gather in groups. A place to spend the night can be coastal areas, which are densely overgrown with willows or reeds, and at night shpaks can be seen in city parks and gardens.
Common starlings guard their territories. This is only partly correct. Shpaks usually protect the small area that is used for incubation and brooding of chicks. As a rule, the radius of this area does not exceed ten meters. Forage areas are not subject to protection by common starlings; spats feed on the side of their nest. Sown areas, vegetable gardens and the outskirts of villages, as well as the coast can serve as forage areas.
Common starlings are aggressive birds. Not in relation to each other, but in relation to other species of birds. Common starlings often compete with other birds for nesting sites. For example, in the United States of America, starlings have displaced the red-headed woodpecker from their historical habitats. Spaks compete well for nesting sites in Europe. Here, their competitors are green woodpeckers and rolling rollers. Moving to other continents, people made attempts to take starlings with them. But some of the consequences were negative. This was due to the natural characteristics of starlings, which multiply rapidly and have a very aggressive character. Therefore, those regions that starlings did not populate historically, these birds became unwanted guests - moreover, the shpaki caused significant damage to berry and grain crops. It was already about considerable economic damage. Australia has a staff of hunters that shoot starlings. We are talking about the western part of the mainland. This is the territory where the shpaki have not yet fully settled. By the way, it is here that hunters are kept on a permanent basis. Huge accumulations of spats at airports can threaten the safety of air travel.
The breeding season for common starlings begins in early spring. The mating season for spats living in the northern hemisphere lasts from late March to early July. The mating season for spats living in the southern hemisphere lasts from September to December. The length of the mating season depends on the availability of the forage base and natural and climatic conditions. An interesting fact is that the Asian and European populations are characterized by the presence of three stages of reproduction in one mating season. Each of these stages ends with the laying of eggs. The first clutch of eggs usually contains four to six eggs (rarely when their number reaches seven). The first laying begins at the same time for all surrounding shpaks. In time, it falls on the beginning of the breeding season. The second clutch of eggs is related to the fact that polygyny is characteristic of shpak. The third clutch begins forty to fifty days after the start of the first clutch. It is also synchronized in the entire population of the common starling. As mentioned above, the number of eggs in a clutch usually varies from four to six. They are light blue in color and devoid of specks. The size of the eggs of common starlings is approximately thirty in length and twenty millimeters in width. The average weight of one egg is six and a half grams. The female is mainly involved in incubating the eggs. At this time, the male replaces her very rarely. The incubation period varies from eleven to thirteen days.
After wintering, the males of the common starling are the first to fly home. After arriving, they immediately start looking for a place where the nest will be arranged. In the role of the latter, both a birdhouse and a hollow can be, and it is quite possible that a hole in the wall of the house is also. After the place is chosen, the males are attached not far from it and begin to sing. This sound signal is intended to attract females, as well as to show other males that this comfortable place has already been taken. A few days after the arrival of the males, the females return to their homeland. After this event, pairs begin to form and nests are built. Leaves, tree twigs, stems, roots, and other "handy" materials are used by ordinary spats as bedding for the nest, and both the male and the female are involved in the construction. Since common starlings are characterized by the presence of polygyny, the male sometimes looks after several females at once. Moreover, male spats can first fertilize one female, and then the second. This phenomenon is called sequential polygyny. The number of polygyny males in different populations varies significantly. For example, in Belgium such males of common starlings turned out to be from 20% to 60%. In some parts of Germany, where studies similar to the Belgian ones were carried out, at least 50% of polygynous male spats were recorded.
Nestlings of common starlings are born completely helpless. In the first days of their life, chicks make absolutely no noise. That is why it is possible to find out that they exist only by the shells that have fallen from the nest. Moreover, the chicks remain alone in the nest for some time. This is due to the fact that both parents go in search of food for them at the same time. True, this mostly happens either in the morning or in the evening.
For the first time after the appearance of the chicks, the female and the male feed them soft food. Harder food (for example, snails, beetles, grasshoppers, large caterpillars, etc.) parents begin to give to their chicks as they grow. Twenty one to twenty three days later, the chicks are already able to leave the nest. True, for about two more days they are supported by their parents. An interesting fact is that parents use all sorts of tricks to lure their very frightened offspring out of the nest. Such tricks include, for example, the fact that the female and the male are spinning in the immediate vicinity of the nest with food, trying to lure the chicks out.
Starlings are omnivorous birds.They eat both plant and animal foods. In early spring, earthworms become the objects of hunting for common starlings. The latter, after winter, get out to the surface of the earth. In addition, in the spring they collect insect larvae that have wintered in hidden places. When the sun gets warmer, common starlings prey on various insects. These are caterpillars and butterflies, spiders and grasshoppers. As for plant foods, the diet of shpak, in particular, includes fruits and seeds of various plants (plums, berries, pears and apples, cherries). If it suddenly turns out that the fruit is under the protection of a tough skin or shell, then the spars find a way out here too. They insert their beak into a small hole, after which they begin to slowly unclench it. This method helps to open the contents. Common starlings can do a lot of harm to vineyards and crops.
Birdhouses were invented for a reason. A person has long sought a relationship with starlings, which is due to the fact that starlings are able to destroy harmful insects (for example, in gardens). That is why people came up with the idea of putting together special houses for shpaks.
Pink starlings are relatives of the common starling. The pink starling belongs to the starling family. And some researchers consider them a separate species. Most authors classify pink starlings as the most common genus of starlings in the starling family. In appearance, the pink starling is more like a crow than a spat. In the pink starling, in comparison with the common starling, the beak is significantly thicker and shorter (its length ranges from twenty two to twenty six centimeters). The nesting place of the pink starling is the southeastern part of Europe and Central Asia. In Russia, the pink starling is found in the south of Siberia and the Caucasus. The pink starling is a small bird. Body length varies from nineteen to twenty-two centimeters, wingspan on average is thirteen centimeters. The weight of a pink starling ranges from fifty nine to ninety grams. Pink starlings are endowed with a tuft, which consists of elongated feathers and is located on the back of the head. The crest is more pronounced in males of the pink starling.
The presence of water nearby is a prerequisite for the nesting of the pink starling. During the nesting period, these birds settle mainly on desert and semi-desert plains, as well as in the steppes. These are territories that are rich in food. The diet of pink starlings includes various locusts. in addition to the availability of drinking and food resources, an indispensable condition for the construction of a nest by a pink starling is the presence of buildings with niches, artificial birdhouses, cliffs of rocks or steep banks of water bodies. An interesting fact is that pink starlings can fly very long distances (up to ten kilometers) every day. During winter flights, pink starlings gather in large flocks in the area of vineyards and orchards. Pink starlings do not mind feasting on fruit trees. The pink starling nests, forming colonies, and the rest of the time lives in flocks.
The pink starling is a public bird. The pink starling feeds in large flocks, the same moves from place to place. The pink starling also spends the night in groups, and nests in whole colonies. In general, his behavior is in many ways similar to that of a spak. The pink starling runs similarly, while searching and looking out for everything. In summer, one flock of pink starlings can include several dozen or several hundred birds. In winter, the flock increases even more. Its number often reaches tens of thousands of individuals. Pink starlings usually nest closely to each other. In one place it happens that they are grouped in five or six pairs of birds. Pink starlings are more mobile than common starlings. They can fly significant distances every day. Moreover, they can be seen in one place more than once. Another difference between pink starlings and ordinary ones is that the former do not show aggression towards other birds. Often they even stray into flocks mixed with them.
The breeding season for pink starlings depends on the availability of the food supply. For the reproduction of pink starlings, an indispensable condition is the abundance of nomadic locusts in the territory. That is why the breeding season for these birds is very short. It usually starts in mid-May and ends in early July. Weather conditions can cause changes in the boundaries of this period. Colonies of pink starlings disintegrate as soon as most chicks begin to fly. There are times when parents leave their chicks not yet adapted for flight in the nest and fly away. In addition, pink starlings leave the nesting territory even if the food supply has dried up.
Pink starlings feed in large flocks. This occurs in an area "rich" in insects, and a significant part of the prey is caught by pink starlings directly on the earth's surface. Their diet mainly includes various Orthoptera, in particular locusts. Due to the fact that the pink starling directly pursues locusts, this bird is considered very useful in those areas that are attacked by it. As Grinchenko testifies, the diet of pink starlings during the breeding season consists of 70-100% of food of animal origin. In the period from May to July, starlings feed on Orthoptera (62% of the total diet), and also eat ants, woodlice, praying mantises, beetles, ground mollusks and cicadas. When the breeding season is over, plant food becomes more preferable for pink starlings. This is the time when flocks of starlings migrate to territories that have abundant shrubs and fruit trees. During this period, the diet of pink starlings includes the fruits of mulberries, raspberries, cherries, figs, apricots, and grapes. These birds do not refuse the seeds of some plants and the nectar of some flowers. At the same time, pink starlings are often not beneficial (as is the case with locusts), but on the contrary, significant harm to fruit trees. In India, pink starlings damage rice fields. An interesting fact is that among pink starlings there are never fights for the right to own prey. On the contrary, those individuals who found it, with the help of sound signals, inform all members of the pack about it.
The gray starling is a songbird of the starling family. The gray starling inhabits the territories of East Asia. It can also be found in Russia. We are talking about the Far East and Transbaikalia. The gray starling is a small bird. Its body length varies from twenty to twenty-three centimeters.
The gray starling has a gray plumage. This bird is characterized by smoky gray or brown plumage of the upper body, light gray plumage of the upper tail, belly and breast. Sometimes the exceptions are the feathers of the head, which can be either black-brown with white streaks, or mainly white. Tufts of white feathers stand out on the cheeks of gray starlings. Gray starlings are endowed with brown irises. The beak of these birds has a yellow-orange color and is endowed with a dark ending. Females of gray starlings have lighter plumage than males.
The gray starling is a schooling bird. Breeds in colonies. She spends the night and feeds in groups. In the daytime, flocks of gray starlings usually include no more than thirty individuals. True, sometimes you can find a flock of these birds, numbering up to one hundred individuals. In summer, a group of gray starlings, including up to a thousand birds, can rally at night. In winter, up to fifty thousand gray starlings are able to group in places of overnight stay.
As a rule, gray starlings have two clutches of eggs in one breeding season. During the nesting period, these birds settle in colonies. The number of pairs of gray starlings in each colony reaches thirty. Nests are usually set up in birdhouses, under the roofs of buildings, or in tree hollows. From the inside, the nest is lined with feathers of other birds and dry grass. The first clutch of eggs occurs almost at the same time in the entire population. The number of eggs in the first clutch varies from two to ten (but usually equal to five). The eggs are blue and not speckled. The incubation period is approximately twelve to thirteen days. Both the female and the male of the gray starling take part in hatching the eggs. However, it is the female who spends a significant part of the time in the nest. Chicks of gray starlings are born completely helpless and naked. In the first days of life, only the male is engaged in feeding the chicks. The first flight of chicks usually takes place on the twenty-first or twenty-second day of their life.
The diet of gray starlings includes both plant and animal food. True, with the availability of both, gray starlings still prefer food of animal origin. These birds eat a wide variety of insects. These are bears, earthworms, beetles and their larvae, ants, caterpillars, etc. Moreover, frogs, lizards and crustaceans often become objects of hunting for gray starlings. The diet of gray starlings includes mulberries, strawberries, cherries. In winter, birds consume the fruits of the Persian lilac, oriental persimmon, camphor laurel, and tallow tree.