Starling – 2021 breeding – can you help?

Sturnus vulgaris – DRUDWEN – Breeding resident, winter visitor and passage migrant

If you look at the previous starling accounts you’ll see that the 1984-88 atlas showed them to be breeding in 40% of the tetrads (2x2km squares) across the county.  By the 2003-07 atlas, that had declined to just under 12%.  But what is the situation now?

This map shows where starlings have been recorded in April-June 2011-2020 according to records in BirdTrack.  The black squares indicate that the observer recorded definite evidence of breeding in 2021 – nests, birds carrying food, recently fledged youngsters (being fed), for example. This has doubled the number of tetrads with breeding evidence compared with the previous ten years.

The Breeding Bird Survey results show a massive decline in the population of starlings breeding in Wales – the same decline is seen in all regions of the UK.

There is good evidence that changes in first-year overwinter survival rates best account for observed population change. Although the ecological drivers of starling decline are poorly understood, changes in the management of pastoral farmland are thought to be largely responsible. (BTO information)

More information on the BTO website

Many thanks to those of you who have already added their sightings to BirdTrack this year, especially those who have been able to add evidence of breeding. If you have entered starling records to the WWBIC system, they are not shown here, but will be added in later in the year. If you have been recording starlings for Garden Birdwatch during April-May, these will also be added later in the year. This delay is simply because these recording schemes use different databases.

There is still time to update this map. The easiest way to do this, is for everyone to note where they see starlings in April, May and June, and add those records to BirdTrack.  In BirdTrack you can pinpoint a location on a map or aerial photo. Then when entering details, click on the ‘highest breeding evidence’ box and select the appropriate code.

Starlings may produce a second brood, so there is a chance of finding breeding birds in June. Flocks of starlings don’t count for this project (you should still record them, but don’t include a breeding code) – once independent, the fledged chicks quickly form flocks and move away from the nest sites, so could have come from anywhere.

If you really don’t want to use BirdTrack, then there is the WWBIC recording scheme either on-line or via their app (part of iRecord) where you’ll have to state in the comments field what you have seen. If all else fails, you can email me, but remember to include the site name, the site grid reference, and the breeding code.

The map will be updated in early July, though records not submitted through BirdTrack may take longer to incorporate so there will be another update later in the year.

More about the Starling in Pembrokeshire