Steamed Starlings

Well, just got word that due to the extreme cold temperatures we will not be banding on Friday. The birds have enough to deal with in this cold.

Well, since I have so darned many of them showing up, I might as well talk about my starlings. Check out this dude, you have to admit that the colors on a starling can be quite striking. This photo was taken this morning when it was below zero and this bird appeared a tad wet. I've noticed this before with starlings at my ledge in winter. Some look like they just came from a bath.

I think this is part of the reason. The starlings take brief turns around all the chimney pipes or heating vents they can find. I took this through the window on the building across from mine. You can see two birds where the heat is coming out and one lower bird waiting its turn. They look like how I feel after being in a hot tub too long. It's too hot to stay in the tub, but too cold to stay out, do I stay or do I go?

Another interesting part to starlings is how their bills work a little differently from other birds. Note the bird on the left with the mouth gaping open. A cardinal or grackle will use the strength and shape of their bills to crack seeds open. Starling bills are too soft and they can't clamp down as hard. But the muscles to open the bill are much stronger. You can watch them at your feeder stick their bill in a pile of seeds and open it wide, sifting the seeds looking for the tastiest pieces. Since they can't crack open seeds, they will sift around looking for sunflower out of the shell, peanuts, cracked, fruit, and suet pellets. I usually only have sunflower hearts and peanuts on the ledge. There are some black oilers in the shell today so I'm sure the starlings were sifting to avoid those. Starlings will also use this technique for getting insects out of dirt and leaf litter.

And here is a photo of a black-capped chickadee as a cleanser for those who just can't deal with starlings. Looks like this bird has three little sunflower hearts in its bill. This bird will fly off the ledge and eat these pieces.