Sturnus vulgaris - Étourneau sansonnet
- Size: 21 cm
- Wingspan: 31 à 40 cm.
- Weight: 60 à 96 g
The Common Starling is a black bird slightly smaller than the Blackbird with whom it can be confused, but its silhouette is different. The tail is quite short and barely protruding the large wings while resting, whereas the blackbird has short wings and a long tail. The difference is visible while flying as one can appreciate the shape of its wings, pointed and wide at base, similar to triangular. Moreover, flying is very different. The plumage is black and shiny whereas the male blackbird has a dull one. The adult plumage, just after the autumn moult is characterized by black feathers with paler tips (white, cream or even reddish), which gives to the bird a mottled appearance. During the course of wearing these feathers throughout winter, the patches will fade progressively to give way to a glossy black nuptial plumage, with green or lilac reflections depending the place. But there will always remain some traces breaking the uniformity of the plumage, especially in female. The flight feathers and greater coverts are edged with cream or fawn. At the same time, the beak and legs, which were dark at the time of moult, take colour. It is at this level that a slight sexual dimorphism can be seen : reproductive male has yellow beak with bluish base while in female the base is rosy. Moreover, the male's legs have a brighter pinkish-red colour than the female's. He also has more ornamental feathers around the throat which shows well while singing. The female's iris is slightly paler. But everything works towards the adults being in their finest attire during spring for reproduction. The juvenile is very different in looks to the point that one often mistakes it for another species. Its plumage is entirely brown-gray and quite clear.
The uniformity is simply broken by the chamois edges of the wing feathers. The beak is blackish with a yellow commissure. The legs are reddish or brownish.
Subspecific information 13 subspecies
- Sturnus vulgaris vulgaris (most of Europe)
- Sturnus vulgaris caucasicus (Caucasus to s Iran)
- Sturnus vulgaris faroensis (Faroe Is.)
- Sturnus vulgaris zetlandicus (Shetland Is.)
- Sturnus vulgaris granti (Azores)
- Sturnus vulgaris poltaratskyi (se European Russia to w Mongolia)
- Sturnus vulgaris tauricus (Ukraine, sw Russia and Turkey)
- Sturnus vulgaris purpurascens (e Turkey, Georgia and Armenia)
- Sturnus vulgaris oppenheimi (se Turkey and n Iraq)
- Sturnus vulgaris nobilior (ne Iran, s Turkmenistan and Afghanistan)
- Sturnus vulgaris porphyronotus (e Kazakhstan and nw China to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan)
- Sturnus vulgaris humii (w Himalayas)
- Sturnus vulgaris minor (c and s Pakistan)
Voice song and cries
The Common Starling is an extremely vocal bird all year round. This is related to its very gregarious nature, with individuals in a group keeping a permanent contact. The repertoire is very varied and almost untranslatable. Different cries are numerous, the most classic being a prolonged tchrrrriiiiii. We can also hear an heinnnn of distress near the nest or powerful tenk in the presence of a predator such as the sparrowhawk. Young in the nest beg incessantly with srrii srrii srrii. The song is a long phrase made of various whistles alternating with more melodic syllables. Grating and discordant notes, trills and runs punctuate the phrases. It includes imitations of very many species, passerines and non-passerines. A classic imitation, for example, is that of the oriole's song, which can deceive the novice. But it also gladly imitates the buzzard, coot, etc.
The Common Starling has two requirements for nesting. It needs open environments for foraging on the ground, and cavities for reproduction.
Behaviour character trait
The main behavior of the Common Starling is its gregarious temperament, which leads it to form groups almost throughout the year. It is only during the nesting period that it adopts a territorial behavior towards its congeners, but this territory is barely marked and allows nearly colonial reproduction in the most favorable areas. Even during nesting, the adults that are not in the nest join communal dormitories for protection from predators. As soon as chicks escape from the nest, families gather together, feed together and spend the night in dormitories.
The flight of the Common Starling is energetic, swift and direct. The flapping of wings is very rapid and continuous.
Common Starling is an omnivore species, but its insectivore diet is the most predominant throughout all seasons.
The Common Starling nests in cavities. Height is indifferent to it, although it prefers higher cavities. In forests, it inhabits old woodpecker dwellings. Due to its size, it can fit into those of the most common species everywhere, the Eurasian Great Spotted Woodpecker. The ones of the Black Woodpecker are too big for it. For cavity occupancy, it is dominant against other potential species such as tits, nuthatches and other flycatchers. In a humanised environment, any sufficiently confined and protected cavity from predators can be occupied. The nest is very often placed under a roof edge when the shingle has a hole, for example.
The Common Starling reproduces from the Atlantic, including its islands (Ireland, British Isles, Azores, Madeira and Canaries), to the heart of the Eurasian continent around Lake Baikal, at temperate latitudes, up to the taiga in the north. Spain is only occupied in the far northwest because the species is in competition with its vicar, the Spotless Starling. It gives its place to the spotless starling in Corsica. To the southeast, its range extends to Asia Minor then to Iran, the south of Central Asia, northern Pakistan and the northeast of the Indian continent. The species is partially migratory. The most northern populations join the temperate regions in winter, the Mediterranean biome to the west and subtropical lands to the east (the Persian Gulf coast, the south of Pakistan and the north half of the Indian continent). The Starling has been introduced, voluntarily or not, to several places in the world. And since it is very adaptable, it is now well established in North America where it is still progressing and causing the same problems as in Europe, but also in Argentina, the south of Africa, Australia, New Zealand, etc.
Threats - protection
IUCN conservation status
in the Wild
Common Starling is a very common species, often increasing in number and absolutely not threatened. It does not need any particular protection. It is more perceived as a predator, which it often is due to its proximity to man and its activities, without seeing its beneficial role as a consumer of insects and other pests. In any case, if we want to counteract its negative impact, it is better to prioritize prevention over destruction, if only from an ethical point of view.
Sources of information
- IOC World Bird List (v13.2), Gill, F and D Donsker (Eds). 2023.
Translation by AI Oiseaux.net
published: 07-11-2002 - Updated: 15-04-2017
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