Starling (Sturnus ulgaris)
Scientific Name: Sturnus vulgaris
Common Name: Starling
For farmers, the common starling (Sturnus vulgaris) has been a useful introduction. It helps control unwanted insects, including ticks on cattle and sheep, and crop pests such as caterpillars and grasshoppers. Some farmers encourage starlings to prey on grass grubs by placing nest boxes around fields.
However, starlings damage grapes and other fruit crops, and compete with tui and bellbirds for the nectar of flax, rata and other native plants.
The common starling is from Europe, North Africa and western Asia. Around 1,000 birds were introduced to New Zealand from the 1860s to the 1880s. Starlings are found throughout mainland New Zealand, except in densely forested or mountainous country. They have spread to the Chatham, subantarctic, Kermadec island groups, and further afield to other Pacific islands.
In the breeding season, both males and females have a glossy purple- or green-black head and breast, and yellow bill – pink at the base in females, blue in males. Their wings and underbodies have yellow-buff speckles, which, in winter, also extend over the breast and head. They are about 21 centimetres long and weigh 85 grams.
Starling nests are untidy heaps of grass in holes in trees or buildings, or at the base of clumps of vegetation. Females lay four or five pale blue eggs, and about half lay a second clutch later in the season. Life expectancy is around three years, but the oldest recorded was 14. (this information obtained from http://www.teara.govt.nz )
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