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Lunch with friends.

This cheeky fledgling joined my friends and I for lunch today. Starlings should not be underestimated as they are clever little birds. They are gregarious and can be found in flocks of thousands. There is not much they don't eat to include insects, spiders, worms as well as nuts, berries and fruit (oh and our cake crumbs) Their super sharp pointy beaks let them crack open and pick out what they want from any morsel.

They tend to nest in holes and the females lay their eggs synchronously for the first clutch, meaning a sudden burst of chattering fledglings following the parents from the nest 5 to 6 weeks later. The males sing all year round, only stopping for a few weeks whilst they moult pre-breeding season. They make a variety of noises and have the ability to mimic not only the sound of other birds, but sounds of car alarms as well as other mechanical sounds. There was a starling that used to sit on the telephone wire outside my house and imitate my neighbours phone ringing.

If you have ever been lucky enough to witness a starling murmuration it is truly spectacular, it's like watching a swirling sea of black as thousands of birds spin and dive in the sky. Scientists still aren't 100% sure why a murmuration occurs, but one reason is to avoid predators by blinding them with a mass of flight and leaving them unable to pick out one bird. As the evenings draw in, finding nearby farmland where there is likely to be birds of prey hunting and starlings roosting is a great place to spot a murmuration. It's worth venturing out with a flask of coffee and your binoculars in the autumn evenings.

(photo by Natasha Hammerton.)

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