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Do starlings migrate and if so, when?

Sent in by Susan Taylor, York

Most of us think of starlings as being resident birds and, it is true, that most are always with us.

Others are migratory though. These account for the huge increase in the starling population which occurs when birds, from northern Europe, arrive to spend the winter in the UK because the weather is relatively mild here and they will be able to find food and shelter before returning to their breeding territories.

They begin to arrive during September but the majority of starlings will arrive in October, before the winter weather sets in. Most of the birds coming to the UK are from Scandinavia but one individual, caught during an autumn bird-ringing session in Bedfordshire, already had a ring, put on the previous spring in Lithuania.

During winter, starlings roost together and these are not just a few birds huddling in thick cover. One site was a roosting place for over one million birds!

One of the great birding spectacles of the winter is the starlings' pre-roost assembly. Prior to settling down for the night, small flocks of these gregarious birds swoop around, joining together until there is one enormous, swirling mass: an amazing sight.

Last year one huge flock attracted a great deal of attention at Gretna Green and the police had to control the traffic as people 'flocked' to watch them and, if you are further south, the RSPB has an Aren't Birds Brilliant! (ABB)viewpoint at Brighton Pier. Tens of thousands of starlings can be seen swirling above Brighton's beaches each year and, between mid-October and mid-November, you can join RSPB volunteers to watch this thrilling spectacle.

Having entertained us throughout the winter, starlings will return to their breeding territories during February and March.

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