Is It Spring Yet? Asks the Starling

European starling in winter plumage (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

12 January 2023

I know it’s only 12 January but a starling told me on Tuesday that spring is coming soon. I could see it in his beak.

Most of the birds that spend the winter in Pittsburgh wear the same colors all year long. Blue jays, chickadees and red-tailed hawks don’t change their look from winter to spring. European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) do make a change but it’s subtle.

In winter they live up to their name with “starry” spotted feathers, dull dark pink legs, and gray-black beaks. When spring comes their spots wear off, their legs become brighter red and their beaks turn yellow.

Last Tuesday I saw a starling whose beak was turning yellow, though still black-tipped like the one pictured below.

Halfway to spring plumage (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

His ultimate goal is this glossy crisp appearance.

European starlings in breeding plumage (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Starling beaks usually start changing in February. Is spring coming sooner than usual or is that starling ahead of the game?

(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)

2 thoughts on “Is It Spring Yet? Asks the Starling

  1. I think spring is coming sooner than most think, I too pay attention to nature. I seen a group starlings up in my oak tree where they make their nests every year, this happens every year when spring is close within 2-4 weeks. Not only that our big trees are Budding, this doesn’t usually accure until spring is about 4 weeks away. I live in indiana which has a crazy weather system in itself, we can have a 50 degree December day and the next day it’s below 0. But from the signs I’m seeing I think by March first we will be seeing warmer than usual weather. I never watch the news or the weather station, so determining when spring is here or winter I solely base it off of nature.

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