Starlings in Kelly's Swamp

To: 'CanberraBirds' <>
Subject: Starlings in Kelly's Swamp
From: Philip Veerman <>
Date: Tue, 9 Feb 2016 11:57:17 +0000

Actually in past years when we could go into the F sewage works, I had the impression that the big pine trees near the top of the little access road (near where the top gate was) were likely to be important roosts for them. Not that I was ever there at dawn or dusk.


The following extract from The GBS Report is relevant and to show how much things have changed. For example in the mid 1980s to early 1990s there was barely a daytime minute that I did not have several Starlings feeding on my lawn. However I am pretty sure that I have not had them on the ground or perched on plants in my yard at any time in the last five or probably more years. Only records now are rare sightings of birds flying over or perched on power lines:


Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris

Overall our most common species on almost every year. It was the most common species for the first 16 years, thereafter having declined to fifth by Year 21. In the late 1980s, concern about the status of the Common Starling was sufficient for the ACT Government to engage COG in a survey of distribution and movements of its post-breeding flocks. The report of this study by Crawford (1990) lists locations of major feeding and roosting sites and discusses problems of monitoring and controlling this species. It highlights the population size at that time. It is clear that the Canberra population of this species has declined significantly since then, as also shown by the results of this study. Since then, although the species is still abundant, the huge congregations formerly found are now mostly replaced by flocks of less than 100 or even 50 birds. ........ Available GBS and other data imply a link between the increase in the Common Myna population and the reduction in the Common Starling population. These data were not available ten years ago and Crawford (1990) did not mention them. Another likely cause for the decline of this species is the reduction in the preferred feeding habitat of large flocks of this species. The total area of grassland, such as sports and school grounds, that were regularly irrigated, has declined in recent years compared with the situation in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Also, numbers were disproportionately highest in Year 1 due to a survey bias. Flocks of over a thousand birds regularly roosted in a Pyracantha bush clump at Site 52. These trees were removed after that year and those big numbers did not occur again...............


Crawford, I. 1990, ‘Distribution and movements of post-breeding flocks of the Common Starling, Sturnus vulgaris Linn., in the Canberra area’, Unpublished 38 page report to COG & ACT Government.




From: David McDonald (personal) [
Sent: Tuesday, 9 February 2016 9:14 PM
To: CanberraBirds
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Starlings in Kelly's Swamp


There was a flock of many, many hundreds on power lines on Bingley Drive, Wamboin on Monday evening - I should have counted them and submitted the record to eBird - David

On 9/02/2016 11:11 AM, Philip Veerman wrote:

Yes roosting in reeds is normal for the species. The abundance of the species locally is hugely diminished from what it was a few decades ago. This site appears to be one of the few where there are still large flocks. Though even flocks of a few hundred are relatively small.




From: Baird, Ian
Sent: Tuesday, 9 February 2016 10:32 AM
To: Rob Geraghty; Canberrabirds Chatline
Subject: RE: [canberrabirds] Starlings in Kelly's Swamp


I’ve seen reports and video of Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) roosting in their millions at wetland  sites in the UK.

Ian Baird



From: Rob Geraghty
Sent: Tuesday, 9 February 2016 8:32 AM
To: Canberrabirds Chatline
Subject: [canberrabirds] Starlings in Kelly's Swamp


I went for a walk around Kelly's swamp at sunset yesterday and was astonished to see starlings gathering in the reed bed in front of the Cygnus hide. When I arrived, a large number were already present and as I watched, groups of around 50 birds flew in to land. There must have been 300+ birds. I've seen large gatherings of Starlings in the trees around the sewerage works, but not in Kelly's swamp before. The weight of the birds seems to be flattening the reeds. It seems like a very odd place for such birds to gather and roost?


======= Rob Geraghty


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