Have you got it yet? At this time of year many of the queries we get about identification have a similar theme, brown, often in flocks, lots of noise sometimes described as looking like plain brown woodpeckers... What could they possibly be seeing?
Well in most cases the birds turn out to be recently fledged starlings and given their sizeable beaks you can see why many people come to this conclusion. These urban birds are just approaching fledging, mostly these days inside roof cavity nest sites, if they have not fledged already. They will be the starlings first brood this year, they usually have a second if conditions allow, and each nest could yield four or five hungry beaks to feed! They will follow the parents pretty closely for the first few days, often joining up with broods from other pairs hence the large flocks, safety in numbers is key for a young starling.
The parents feed them on a wide variety of foods but they spend most of the time looking for invertebrates in the soil, a protein rich food for healthy chick growth. If you want to help them find supplies of natural foods then adopt a mowing regime that allows for a variety of grass length. For example, leave the edges of the lawn to grow long and mow the centre short or create a patchwork effect with long and short squares or strips. They will also look for caterpillars and other insects on trees and shrubs as well as raiding bird feeders for mealworms, fruit, fat snacks and cake crumbs.
Other ways to help starlings are to keep your garden chemical free and put up nesting boxes (under north or east facing eaves ideally but definitely above 3 meteres on walls or trees trunks can also work).
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