Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Metallic Starlings

Michele: Around the corner form our house is a tall Eucalyptus Tree with... no kidding... hundreds of Metallic Starlings. Here is a picture from back in August when they first arrived and starting building their nests.

I was not familiar with starlings at all and was struck by a couple things. Firstly, the birds are as strange as all the stories and youTube videos document. They swarm and swoop around in seemingly random patterns. Sometimes, when we go down the street every single bird from the tree is sitting along electric wires across the road. Maybe there was a tree snake near their nests or something? Then, as we walk by one bird decides it is time to go back and the entire flock immediately follows.

Watching them build their nests (hanging pouch-like nests) was interesting. Groups of 10-20 birds would leave the tree as a group and return with bark, twigs etc. While the group was gone the remaining birds would chirp a bit but when a group of starlings returns to the tree, Oh the Ruckus! Really loud chirpings for about 15 seconds whenever any bird returned. This is the conversation I imagined translated from Starling language:
Mabel the Metallic Starling: "Is that really you Stan? I thought you were gone forever. Thank GOD you've returned!"
Stan replies: "Yes I'm back from my epic 5 minute journey across the vast skies to the neighboring tree and look at the bounty that I've brought back from distant lands!"
Mabel: "A twig!!! For me? Aren't you a dear! I know just where to put it too. Now if I only had another few more twigs...."
The nest building lasted for a couple weeks and was really entertaining to watch. It was very noisy. The property around the tree is for sale and I imagine that the realtor has a difficult time showing this property while the starlings are nesting. These birds come back to the same tree each year and they really like the tallest gum trees around. There are plenty of nice gum trees in our neighborhood but instead of spreading out, the starlings all like to sit - hundreds of them - in this one tree. Odd birds.

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