Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Pair Of Starlings

European Starling Pair
It seems that in the last little while I've gotten much better at getting photos of birds. Part of the reason for this is that I've worked very hard at increasing my skill level of spotting them in the trees, and getting clear pictures of them. The other part is that there are just so many of them right now.

The birds you see above are a pair of European starlings. I've shown starlings to you before, but I've never given you a pair of them, I think. These appear to be a mated pair. One is most likely male, and that would make the other the female of the two. There is only one question I have though. How do we tell them apart?

Female Starling?
The first thing I want to say is that was very cruel of me to leave you with that question as if I would provide you with an answer when you get down here. The fact is that I'm not sure I have the answer of which is male and which is female, but I'm going to try. Let's just see what I do have.

A male starling is less spotted on its underside than a female. They have less spots closest to the ground. As far as I know, males also have thicker throat feathers that they stick out for display purposes. I may be wrong that only the males have this, but let's go with that here. Now we'll make a guess as to which is male, and which is female.

Male Starling?
As you can see, I have labeled the last two pictures as female and male starlings. The picture at the top shows both of them. The one on the left has more spots, so I suspect that is the female. The one on the right seems to have less spots, therefore it appears to be the male starling.

The suspected male also appears to have a little bit more of a puffed up appearance around the neck, which also seemingly fits the description. This is my first attempt at trying to determine the sex of these birds, so I may be completely wrong. But I think I have logical evidence that points to me being right about this.

Here they are enjoying each other's company. They seemed oblivious to my presence. And why not? I was hiding behind a tree that wasn't really very close to them anyway. Starlings are a very common bird, but new information about them brings out something new and interesting. Which is male? Which is female? I made my guess with the best of my current knowledge.

What do you think? Are there any birders here who might know a little more about them? What about the rest of you? Does my theory seem to make sense, or do you think there might be a better one? Tell me your thoughts and opinions. Also, just to lighten the mood, what do you think of my cool starling pictures?


  1. They are darlings, ratty! I'll go with your infor for telling which is male, and which is female. Because all I can say is they're birds to me, so your explanation made sense to me :-)

  2. Your pictures are great Ratty but taken a little too far away and at the wrong time of year for me to comment on the sex of them. Male and female starling have different colour eyes..the females being amber/brown whilst the males are a mottled grey. Also during the breeding season the beaks go a deeper yellow with a females remaining pinkish near the base whilst a males goes a blue/black colour. You are right on the throat feathers of the male though so maybe you have got it right but I don't think I am prepared to make a guess!!

    Hope this helps.

  3. A male is always more colourful and handsome than the female, I can say that.

    Though ladies are much more beautiful and charming than me.

  4. 100 European Starlings were released in NY City’s Central Park in the early 1890s. The Starling population is now estimated to be over 200 million birds.

    Blame Shakespeare. Eugene Schieffelin of The Acclimation Society of North America was dedicated to introducing all the birds mentioned in the Bard’s works.

  5. How can you be so sure that they are european Starling Ratty?
    Have you checked their passport? :P
    I suspect they are Chinese immigrant :D

  6. LOL VanillaSeven has a point. I do not know how to tell the difference between the male and female but it is true that normally the male has brighter colors. So maybe that is two females sitting in the tree. Or two males.
    Do they have Starlings in China??

  7. I like starlings and their chatter. They are known to mimic other birds calls--that's all I really know about them.

  8. I loved your item by item analysis Ratty! Right or wrong it sure sounded convincing. Nice photos of the two starlings.

  9. I love your starling pictures. That first one looks like they are having a little chat. Maybe they are talking about the guy that's hiding behind the tree taking pictures.

  10. As a cat, your blog is making my mouth water...

  11. I like to look at them when there are a bunch on some meadow then suddenly they all leave at once, or when they are so many of them in a single tree and the tree seems alive and full of songs. But I can’t tell them apart – could be two males, one a little older and with a little more fat.

  12. LOL @Fin! I know the feeling, but while I'm on Ratty's blog I try to respect the birds and not have too many gourmet poultry fantasies! I do want to say that visiting this blog frequently gives me a chance to see lots of birds I wouldn't see outside my southern California window. I don't think I've ever seen starlings. Here, I mainly see sparrows, some of those really loud blue birds, mourning doves... and the occasional hawk and crow.

  13. I think Rainfield said it best :D I adore these photos and they aren't even noticing you so they must be in love.

  14. We see a lot of them, and I can't tell them apart either...but I like them..if you look at them close, they have a rainbow of colors in them and aren't all black at all....they have wonderful subtle colors of specks in their feathers.

  15. Well, now, I hate starlings. But that first picture is great. You can just see them talking to each other! I wonder what they are saying?