Usually as I get closer to a bird, the bird begins to take notice and will fly off.
I remember in Antarctica finding a Kelp Gull nest and approaching the nest many times. The parent would always flee when I reached the exact same distance from the nest as before. Experienced birders know just how closely many species can be approached.
With this in mind, I was surprised to encounter a flock of juvenile starlings and have one not flee but actually come towards me in a menacing fashion.
This brought back a memory from long ago about starling behaviour.
One spring day, my cat brought home what was left of a starling that it had captured. “Blanche” did this even though I had attached a bell to her neck. Shortly after, an enraged neighbour informed me that there were 5 chicks in a now motherless nest and what was I going to do about it.
Having an unused birdcage about the apartment, I fetched it and went to gather the chicks. This led to a most interesting 3 weeks or so.
The chicks lived in the cage on a table in the kitchen. For food I provided a mixture of diced fruit, frozen fruit and a few insects that I was able to find. They thrived on this but a pattern began to emerge.
The five quickly settled on who was the “runt” of the litter and were mercilessly cruel with it. The principal four would gorge themselves on the food provided and then perch. The runt, nearly starving, would slowly approach the food dish and begin to taste. This triggered violent dives directly into the little one and resulted in considerable damage to its body which became rapidly deformed. I considered removing the poor one but it was clear that its life was soon to be snuffed.
After a week or so during which time I became very familiar with all of the voice patterns of juvenile starlings (and remain so today), it became clear that the top three birds had settled on who was to be the new victim. The same tricks of food deprivation were tried on this one but, having had more time to grow and strengthen, it was, for the most part, able to defend itself.
When it became clear that these four now resembled the juvenile starlings that I was seeing outdoors, I took the cage to a beach and released them. Looking like children racing from school on the final day before summer vacation, they all flew away with not one glance at the gentleman who had provided for them these many days.
Seeing today’s starling almost challenge me brought back these memories of agressive starling behaviour.
Clover and daisy went off together,
But the fragrant water lilies lie
Yet moored in the golden August weather.
– Celia Thaxter (1835 – 94)