Starlings in Ibiza and Formentera
Starlings are undoubtedly extremely striking and impressive due to the large flocks they form, where hundreds of specimens can gather together, creating spectacular formations of clouds of starlings as they fly.
On the island of Ibiza we can find two species of starlings. On the one hand, as a settled and resident species we have the spotless starling (Sturnus unicolor), and as a migrant species, the european starling (Sturnus vulgaris).
Spotless starling especimen.
European straling especimen.
Both species have differences, not only in their morphology, but also in their habits. The european starling is a migrant and moves in large flocks, which can range from a few to dozens of individuals to hundreds or even thousands of specimens; also very characteristic are the massive roosts they form in agricultural and urban areas. In Eivissa, we can see this in Ses Feixes, where at the height of migration, they can congregate for several days or a few weeks, a roost of thousands of specimens. It is undoubtedly a spectacle worth seeing, within reach of anyone who is willing to go to the area before sunrise, around the last week of October and mid-November.
13-11-22; european starling roost in Ses Feixes, Eivissa. Ses Feixes is a freshwater wetland area (the most important in Ibiza) extremely degraded by urban development; with a large presence of rubbish, invasive species, colonies of feral cats and substandard housing (plastic shacks and tents), but which nevertheless has a tremendous ecological value.
In contrast, the spotless starling is a Mediterranean endemism that lives in stable colonies, which, although they can also number hundreds of individuals, tend to be smaller (in Ibiza, they do not exceed a few dozen). There is also a certain migratory component to the species, but to a much lesser degree than in the case of the common starling, both in terms of numbers and area of distribution.
Spotless starlings accessing their nest, note the insects in their beaks to feed the chicks..
European starlings on a fig tree.
European starlings bathing in a puddle.
As their names indicate, the european starling has a body covered with conspicuous spots, while the spotless starling has a completely jet plumage. However, spotless starling juveniles may have a few spots, which are much less conspicuous than those of the european starling.
Both species are omnivorous, which can sometimes cause problems in fields and fruit trees in the eyes of landowners. Both species are of similar size, around 20 cm, and have an amazing ability to imitate the sounds of other species, and develop sounds of their own that sound more like a sci-fi robotic bird than what you would expect from a bird with the appearance and shape of a starling.
Flock of european starlings.
The migration of the european starling takes place during the winter months. During spring and summer, the european starlings are busy breeding in northern and north-eastern European countries. As already mentioned, the Spotless Starling is a resident bird of the Mediterranean area, and it is in this area that it also breeds.
In their migratory movements, european starlings move in large flocks of hundreds or even thousands of birds. This characteristic means that when it is time to roost or feed, they flock in their hundreds or thousands to the same point. This can have negative but also positive effects on the environment. Among the negative effects, we can find the damage they cause to crops, fruit trees or the dirt they can generate in urban environments, which can become a public health problem when this affects sensitive areas such as hospitals. However, as has been indicated, this tendency to gregariousness also has positive effects on the environment, such as the large number of insects they can ingest in a very short space of time, or the amount of nitrogen they can contribute to the soil through their defecation.
In short, as with so many other things in life: not everything is so white, not everything is so black!
As we have seen, due to their feeding characteristics and life habits, starlings can be a very troublesome and harmful species for human activity, and consequently, it may be necessary to carry out controls on this species. Some examples of conflictive situations are the aforementioned impacts on agriculture and crops, or the dirt and noise they generate when they establish roosts in urban areas. Regarding this last aspect, a certain "acclimatisation" of the Common Stonechat to urban environments is beginning to occur, resulting in an increase in the existence of urban roosts as opposed to rural ones, due to the fact that it offers them a better habitat, with easy access to food and protection from adverse conditions and possible predators.
Nova Falcons' working methodology for the control of european starlings is based on the implementation of non-lethal dissuasive measures that artificially generate the "unsafe" environment that they naturally try to avoid, among which we can highlight the use of biological control by means of falconry. It is also important to monitor the evolution of the problem by means of censuses, and to study the affected area in order to implement structural measures that can help to solve the problem in a definitive and respectful way with the environment and the species to be controlled.
Finishing a marking session with Partisana; biological control of avifauna.
Text: own elaboration.
Photographs: unless otherwise specified, Borja Pérez; and unless otherwise indicated, all photos were taken in Eivissa or Formentera.
About Nova Falcons:
Nova Falcons is a company specializing in wildlife control and environmental services.
- Hits: 156