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Birds of the Western Slope July 29, 2015

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Breeding plumage.


I sit here at our dining room table enjoying the view of the Grand Mesa -- sun and shadow. Always captivating. But there's movement at the top of the east cottonwood tree in our front yard. I can't determine what's causing it. Wait a moment ... good grief ... birds are falling out of the tree! There must be at least 50. They keep in a group to land in the pasture across the road. They disappear!

Get the binoculars. I can see movement in the growing alfalfa, but I can't see a single bird. A pickup truck comes barreling down the road and a cloud of birds rushes up, across the road and into the east cottonwood.

Now one or two venture down to our lawn ... now more. They walk rather than hop and peck at the ground, apparently finding something to eat. And even on the ground they remain in a group. The behavior says "starling" but they're the wrong color for starlings. These birds are brown!

Now up again and out over the pasture. They all land on the top wire of the fence, perching near each other ... oops ... one bird decides it wants to change places. A bit of a squabble. But now all the birds sit quietly. Up again and out to land in the pasture. I can't see them at all! Another car and all the birds fly up into the tree.

I've observed starlings for years and the winter plumage is black specked with white. The bill is black. During breeding season the bill is bright yellow. I check with Sibley's Guide and find that the juveniles are plain brown -- I've never realized that before! So today's birds are juvenile starlings!

There are entire books written about these birds, but it is of interest to note that they were introduced in New York City in 1890 and are now a PEST across the entire continent. In winter they appear in large flocks which may perform aerial displays. They produce many sounds. And a collective name is "Murmuration of Starlings."

Never a dull moment with birds!

Read more from:
Surface Creek
Cedaredge, Evelyn Horn
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