(Sturnus vulgaris, Linn.—L'Etourneau, Buff.)
LENGTH somewhat less than nine inches. The bill is straight, sharp-pointed, and of a yellowish brown; in old birds deep yellow; the nostrils are surrounded by a prominent rim; the eyes are brown; the whole plumage dark, glossed with green, blue, purple, and copper, but each feather is marked at the end with a pale yellow spot; the wing coverts are edged with yellowish brown; the quill and tail feathers dusky, with light edges: the legs are reddish brown.
From the striking similarity, both in form and manners, observable in the Starling, and those more immediately preceding, we have no scruple in removing it from the usual place, as it evidently forms a connecting link between them, and in a variety of points seems equally allied to both. Few birds are more generally known than the Starling, it being an inhabitant of almost every climate; and as it is a familiar bird, and easily trained in a state of captivity, its habits have been more frequently observed than those of most other birds. They make an artless nest in the hollows of trees, rocks, or old walls, and sometimes in cliffs overhanging the sea: lay four or five eggs, of a pale greenish ash: the young are dusky brown till the first moult. In the autumn they fly in vast flocks, and may be known at a great distance, by their whirling mode of flight, which Buffon compares to a sort of vortex, in which the collective body performs an uniform circular revolution, and at the same time continues to make a progressive advance. The evening is the time when the Starlings assemble in the greatest numbers, and, it is said, betake themselves to the fens and marshes, where they roost among the reeds: they chatter much in the evening and morning, both when they assemble and disperse. So attached are they to society, that they not only join those of their own species, but also birds of a different kind, and are frequently seen in company with Redwings, Fieldfares, and even with Crows, Jackdaws, and Pigeons. Their principal food consists of worms, snails, and caterpillars; they likewise break and suck the eggs of other birds, and eat various kinds of grain, seeds, and berries, and are said to be particularly fond of cherries.
In a confined state they eat small pieces of raw flesh, bread soaked in water, &c. are very docile, and may easily be taught to repeat short phrases, or whistle tunes with great exactness, and are capable of imitating the notes of other birds. In pairing time they are extremely frolicsome, flapping, fluttering, and hurrying around and over each other, with odd gestures and tones.
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