Starlings are one of the most mesmerising natural spectacles. But they can also be a nuisance, especially in urban areas, where their large flocks of birds cover roads and pavements with guano. They are also notoriously messy and prone to nesting in holes or cavities in trees and buildings.
So, where do starlings sleep at night? Starlings prefer to roost in large groups. Flocks that gather together to roost over night are known as murmurations. These huge flocks are formed from tens to thousands of individual starlings. Flocking together provides safety in numbers and means that predators would be hard pressed to target a single bird amongst all the hypnotising swirling movement of the whole group.
In the wild, starlings tend to roost on cliffs or reedbeds in wetlands but will also use manmade structures such as bridges and industrial complexes. In cities, the birds favour tall buildings or warehouses and even piers.
A new pioneering study has found that starlings’ sleep regulation changes with the seasons. Researchers from the University of Groningen and the Max Planck Institute have discovered that during the summer, starlings need five hours less sleep per night compared to winter. They also need to take more mid-day naps.
Sadly, urban starlings often find their way into domestic buildings and cause damage to the roofs and walls. They are also reported to contaminate food products, and the noise and droppings from large flocks can disrupt business operations. But there are ways to deal with these birds humanely.