Imagine you had never seen one of these in your life before. Isn't it just the most beautiful thing?
Look at the iridescence, the greens and purples. And those white feather tips, like perfect little spear heads.
It is of course the Starling, meaning the 'little thing covered in stars'.
What you have also no doubt noticed is the strangely flared throat feathers, which is a tell-tale sign that this bird is actually singing. It's beak is just slightly parted, but I can confirm that a steady stream of clicks and whistles was emanating from within it, and those spiky throat feathers are all part of the show.
This isn't a spring photo, either - I took this just a few weeks ago, for Starlings will sing their way through the winter.
It is only on a few notes, such as the long rising or falling whistles that are a typical part of its repertoire, that the bill is opened wide as in the next photo.
The joy of this winter song is that it is usually given among friends when they gather for a little natter, often in the early afternoon after a bout of feeding. This song is about being part of a choir rather than a soloist. So my bird above was actually within a flock of about a dozen birds all giving it some.
What I find fascinating with Starling song is that you can often pick out that one bird is singing two sounds simultaneously. Many birds can do this trick, but in the Starling it is particularly marked, often underscoring its clucks and pops with fast clicking noises.
But what I love even more is that one of these birds was happily imitating a crowing cockerel. It was a perfect rendition, albeit at totally the wrong time of day.
And then the whole choir stops singing simultaneously in what is called a 'dread'.
Only 30 years ago, this was a ubiquitous bird, and many people resented their boistrous presence at bird feeders; it was forever number 1 in the Big Garden Birdwatch charts. Last year, it clung on to the number 2 spot in terms of overall abundance, so it is still a common bird, but it had slumped to number 10 in terms of the percentage of gardens it frequents. Soon, if the downwards trend continues, less than two in five of us will record them during the Birdwatch.
So here's to the Starling, for proving that some of the wildlife we take for granted can be stunningly beautiful when we stop to look. And here's to our combined attempts to ensure that regain their rightful place in gardens everywhere.
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