These gregarious birds used to be much more common, and I miss the daily sight of huge flocks returning from a day’s foraging in the surrounding countryside to roost in the warmth of city-centre Bradford, for example. Murmurations of Starlings are one of nature’s most spectacular sights: thousands of birds flocking effortlessly, with smaller flocks blending together and creating swirling, complex patterns in the sky. At a distance, a Starling looks black, but the closer you get, the more you notice the speckles of white, and a kind of metallic sheen of greens and purples. They are fantastic mimics – I heard one in my garden doing an accurate copy of a ringtone – and studies have shown that there are local dialects of mimicked sounds. The diverse sounds of a singing male were aptly described in a recent Yorkshire Wildlife Trust magazine as “a full English breakfast being cooked in a frying pan – spitting, popping and bubbling sounds”. Their complex vocalizations have made them the subject of research into the evolution of human language.
Photos by Pixabay