starlings as shorebirds

Subject: starlings as shorebirds
From: (Wim Vader)
Date: Fri, 14 Mar 1997 10:21:51 +0100
        It looks like that my earlier attempt to send this to Birding-aus
failed, so I try once more. My excuses if you got it the first time

                                                        Wim Vader

        Finally a subject where I can contribute something from almost as
far away as possible, viz. from 70* N in Tromsoe, northern Norway, where we
just set a new record, with 194 cm of snow on the ground.
        I have for many years looked at "border incidents" between passerine
birds and marine animals, and have also written a few obscure papers on the
subject, mostly in Dutch and Norwegian.Coastal starlings very often feed on
intertidal invertebrates: in Holland they collected the polychaete Nereis
diversicolor from muddy intertidal areas, while along the Norwegian fjords I
have often watched starlings feed on gammarid amphipods. In these latter
areas this feeding pattern was so important to the birds, that they even
showed a tidal rhythm and collected on overhead telephone wires for a few
hours, until the tide went out again, and the amphipods once more were
accessible! In addition to this, I`ve seen starlings (and also Sturnus
unicolor in Spain) feed on talitrids on beaches, and "helicopter" over the
water surface in order to pick up small dead fish, i.a. during the Sprat
fisheries in the West-Norwegian fjords.
        Martin O`Brien opined that maybe starlings in Victoria were more
active in the intertidal, because drought had made their normal feeding
areas less accessible to them, or less productive. Also here we have a
somewhat similar phenomenon in northern Norway: when we have heavy
unseasonal snowfalls and frost periods in late May or June (After all this
is 70*N) many newly arrived passerines use the intertidal areas as an
"emergency haven", and both starlings and various thrushes are then often
found in large numbers in the stony and muddy intertidal. In a very places
here in northern Norway small numbers of starlings winter (Most famous are
the starlings of Andenes at ca 68* N); here they feed almost exclusively
intertidally during the winter months, as most of the land has a heavy snow
cover for many months.
        So yes, starlings are nothing if not versatile, and besides many
other things also quite competent shore birds. With best greetings from your

                                        Wim Vader, Tromsoe Museum
                                        9037 Tromsoe, Norway

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