Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Thursday's Guardian Country Diary is about two separate populations of starlings that inhabit the seafront at Whitburn, near Sunderland. One flock, usually of about 100 birds, is often to be found either on the shore amongst the strandline seaweeds at low tide or at high tide feeding on a patch of grassland on low cliffs at the north end of the beach. They exhibit all the 'normal' starling behaviour and are very easily spooked - they spend a lot of time in flight but when they do settle they don't stay grounded for very long - when one bird takes to the air the others always follow.

Further to the south along the seafront this little group, of around a dozen birds, has adopted a completely different life style, forsaking the panicky behaviour of the flock and .....

.... instead spending their time on the promenade, oblivious to cyclists, dog walkers and passers-by and focusing all their attention ....

.... on promenaders who buy fish and chips from the shop across the road and sit and eat them leaning against the sea wall. They're waiting for someone to throw them a chip and they usually beat the resident herring gulls to the prize.

Despite abandoning the collective paranoia of the flock in favour of a life of cadging fast-food, this streetwise splinter group is in fine fettle - life on the streets suits them well - and they are clad in immaculate early winter plumage.

Unlike the flocking birds at the far end of the promenade, this individual was completely fearless, maybe expecting me to throw it a chip in return for a photo-opportunity.


  1. What a lovely story. The Starlings here are fearless too, not that there are as many as there used to be. I do love them, they are so clever at mimicking other sounds. They look so smart too.

    1. I love the iridescence of their plumage too - like green and purple lights.