Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Spangled Pest

I thought I had avoided the scourge of all of us who feed birds, the European Starling. And I had until this past Sunday when a gang of seven showed up in the small garden and took over the bird table. So, the table was taken up and put into the storage room until I could go back to the feed store to buy safflower seeds (starlings and grackles hate it, squirrels are so-so, and the cardinals love it).

Thwarted by that move, they all moved over to the suet feeder, displacing the male and female downy woodpeckers who went back to the tube feeder. That came down, too, until I can find a suet feeder that only allows birds to feed from the bottom. Starlings won't feed upside down, but the woodpeckers, wrens and yellow-rumped warblers will.

I'm crossing my fingers that the small perches on the other feeders will keep them from taking over those, but if it does happen, then all the feeders will be switched out to safflower seed. This is becoming an expensive proposition this winter as I am now on my third set of bird feeders. Cheap plastic ones don't hold up even for a couple of weeks.

I do find the starlings' feathers interesting even if their greedy feeding patterns are annoying.  From the All About Birds website:
"Starlings turn from spotted and white to glossy and dark each year without shedding their feathers. The new feathers they grow in fall have bold white tips – that’s what gives them their spots. By spring, these tips have worn away, and the rest of the feather is dark and iridescent brown. It’s an unusual changing act that scientists term 'wear molt.' "


Val said...

But have you noticed what a melodious call they have? We have hundreds around our house, depending on the season, feeding noisily on mulberries or an orange fruit (whose name I don't know)in the tree opposite. These starlings are a glossy coal black with bronze flashes on the end of their wings when they fly off. In the Kruger Game Park are two of the most exotic varieties of starling - one is a plum-purple colour and the second is a deep teal blue colour - they look like flying jewels.

Dan said...

I must admit to having a soft spot for starlings, and don't mind feeding them in the garden. Their antics make me smile, and I love their calls. I think sometimes they sound like dolphins with their clicking noises.
Sorry to hear about all the feeders you've been through!

Anyes said...

A very good looking thief I'd say...But then again I don't know much about birds. They do look like giants though compared to the little LBJ's. Good luck ;-)

Stacy Horn said...

I love starlings and all the noise they make!

rachel said...

I love starlings too - they aren't at all plentiful any more here in the UK. But one year in the 1960s there was a massive invasion of them in the woods round my school - to the point where we weren't allowed to walk through them because of the smell and the mess.....

Dan said...

PS. The spangled pests are avid ground feeders, so some seeds on the grass will probably tempt them away from your hanging feeders.

Karen said...

Val: I haven't noticed any singing from the starlings, just a lot of squabbling over the suet cakes.

Dan: Now, I am rethinking the suet cake holders. I still want to keep them away from the other feeders.

Anyes: Yes, compared to the little finches the starlings are like Gulliver to the Lilliputians.

Stacy: Someone called starlings the Mynah bird of the cities.

Rachel: Can I ship some to you?

Dan: I'm thinking about taking down the peanut holder that no one is going to and putting up the suet holder there. It's far away enough from the other feeders that I think there would be no problems. Putting up the bird table for them would mean the sparrows and cardinals would get muscled out.