Starling on a branch

Five Minutes in Nature: Starlings

Winter is a tough time of year, with its short days, long nights, and often overcast skies. But there is still wildlife to be enjoyed, and spending time in nature has been shown to improve wellbeing. With these posts, the team at the Museum of Zoology are sharing how they like to spend five minutes in nature and get reacquainted with the wildlife on their doorstep.

Roz Wade, Learning Officer at the Museum, writes:

Winter can be difficult any year, let alone in lockdown, but I find spending time in nature a real tonic. Every day I head out for a short walk at lunchtime to get some fresh air. At this time of year I am often greeted by the cheerful sound of starlings chattering away in the treetops near home. I love their conversations, punctuated with the odd whistle or swoop, and accompanied by the occasional collared dove or woodpigeon.

Starlings are fantastic mimics, and can copy the songs of other birds and even human-generated sounds like car alarms and mobile ring tones. Winter is a great time to look out for starlings as the British population swells with birds escaping colder climes. They can gather in large numbers, creating dancing clouds in the sky called murmurations at dusk. When there are so many birds in one place it can be easy to assume that starlings are doing well in the UK. But their numbers are declining – monitoring by the British Trust for Ornithology shows that their population has decreased by 66% since the 1970s. So I am grateful to be able to hear these characterful birds so close to home, and put out fat blocks and other food to support them as much as I can.

Find out more about starlings with Dr Tony Fulford, and hear more of their song, on our Starlings post.

Find out about murmurations and create your own origami starling mobile with our 12 Days of Winter Wildlife.

Starling on a branch
Starling photo by Martin Sepion on Unsplash

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