Flocks of starlings get themselves into trouble

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We have all seen and marvelled at the aerial acrobatics of starlings, flying and wheeling in fantastic numbers. Maybe it’s the cold weather, but this year their numbers seem higher than ever.

Flocks – or to give them their correct collective term – murmurations seem to be causing trouble up and down the country, especially with farmers.

Farmers have called for a rethink on the protected status of the birds after huge flocks began invading indoor cow cubicle sheds.

Interviewed by Clinton Rogers on BBC Somerset TV, dairy farmer John Cottrell from Somerset sums up the problems caused, whereas Tony Whitehead of RSPB encourages farmers to starling-proof their buildings or feed their cows at times of the day when the starlings are absent

To see the interview click here.

It is the size of this winter”s flocks – and their resistance to bird-scaring tactics – that have driven farmers to ask for their protected status under the Wildlife & Countryside Act to be lifted.

“It”s like living with a swarm of locusts every day, and yet we”re the only EU country that won”t allow starlings to be controlled as a pest.

“We”ve never seen flocks as big as the ones we”ve had to cope with this winter,” said Leslie Hull of Gibstick Farm, Winmarleigh, near Garstang.

“They”re taking massive amounts of food and crawling all over the cows and covering the troughs and cubicles with bird lime.”

Interestingly, in Australia starlings are classified as a pest and in the USA dozens of European starlings literally fell out of the sky onto the ground last week in Kinderhook in the state of New York, USA. It was the result of a US Department of Agriculture sanctioned controlled killing of birds that are considered a threat to specific dairy farms.


The European starling (Sturnus vulgaris )

Starling - flock
Spectacular to watch – a murmuration
© John Holmes

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