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B. Fuller — February 08, 04:45PM

How was the photo example of a nonbreeding European Starling identified as such?

I am very new to doing anything more than casually looking at birds in the park, and am confused about how to identify bird stages.

When I'm on the page for European Starlings ( ), an image of a starling taken by Ryan Schain on March 27 2010 is used to illustrate a nonbreeding European Starling.

My question is how to tell this bird is nonbreeding? A few places I've seen list yellow bills as indicative of an adult breeding starling, and my Sibley guide says that the breeding season for European Starlings is from Dec-Aug, and the nonbreeding period is Sep-Feb. If the photo was taken at the end of March, that seems pretty firmly in the breeding season.

Are the rest of the bird's feathers indicative of nonbreeding, and that tends to be a stronger indicator? What am I missing?

Zhel — February 10, 02:43PM

The bird is in non-breeding plumage though the photo was taken within the breeding season. Starlings acquire fresh spotted feathers in autumn and remain speckled during the winter. The white tips gradually wear off, so the adult in breeding plumage should look completely black (like male European Blackbird) but with purple and other hues of gloss. Our starlings have not started singing yet (even completely absent at the best local spot for finding breeding birds), so they are definitively not in breeding season now. I guess they may be breeding in Dec-Feb in the southern hemisphere?

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B.Fuller — February 11, 03:31PM

Thank you! That was very helpful.

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