For two weeks, squawking European Starlings were noisy at the back of our house. We heard them every time we sat on the deck. The Starlings were kind of annoying. There’s nothing pretty to our ears about their vocalizations. They were introduced to N. America in the 19th century by Shakespeare enthusiasts according to All About Birds.
Update 29 May 2016: They appear to have left the nest. No sign of any birds today.
I looked out our bedroom window which is near the deck and about 12 feet above the ground. I spotted the source of the Starling commotion. In a knot hole were three babies peering out patiently waiting for a parent to bring food.
They took turns pushing each other aside for the best position. When food comes, there is usually only enough for one. If you are first in line, you have the advantage.
They kept a close watch all around. At the slightest hint a parent was nearing with food, they opened their mouths to get ready. There were several false alarms.
In a few minutes, they spotted a parent with food. Beaks flew open. Me! Me! Me! Feed me!
I continued to watch for a while. To my surprise, another bird showed up at the nest. It was a Red Bellied Woodpecker. It looked curious. I wondered if it would grab one and fly off with it. BlueJays will do that. It half-heartedly pecked at a the babies a couple of times, then moved in closer for a better look. The Starlings retreated as far back as possible. Soon the woodpecker left and life was back to normal.
Reblogged this on How I See It.
Nice behavioral study series, Jim. The woodpecker added some drama that probably marred the babies for life. Poor little things. It’s a tough world out there.
I noticed that they backed away pretty quickly when the Woodpecker showed up.
Starlings and grackles are pigs! They crowd out the smaller birds and clean out our feeders with regularity. Suet attracts more woodpeckers. Maybe that’s the answer.
Each spring we have large flocks of grackles fly north through here. I always stop putting seed in the feeders for two or three weeks until most of them are passed to the north. The suet melts in the summer but I do use it in the cooler months to attract woodpeckers.
A wonderful series. I see the same behavior with baby swallows. Once they’ve left the nest, they’ll line up along a boat’s lifelines or rigging, and wait for a parent to show up with a snack. They can see or hear or otherwise sense Mom and Dad long before I can see them. It’s the cheeping and chirping of the babies that serves as the announcement that food is on the way.
The shrikes are another bird that will pluck babies from nests. The first time I saw it, I wasn’t sure it really had happened. It was a little unnerving to see a songbird acting like a raptor, but that’s what they are.
Thank you. The events unfolded so nicely as I watched it deserved to be told as a story. It’s fun to see how the little families in nature as well as the predators go through life and make a living.