Support
Subscribe
Subscribe to BirdNote

Sign up to receive a weekly email preview of the following week's shows!

Sign Up
Support BirdNote

Help BirdNote tell more stories, reach more people, and inspire action.

DONATE

You are here

Starlings Say It With Flowers

Romantic or practical?

European Starlings regularly adorn their twig nests with marigolds, elderberry flowers, yarrow leaves, and even willow bark — all of which are full of aromatic chemicals, which fumigate their nests and are thought to discourage pests and parasites. Scientists discovered that starlings hatched in well-fumigated nests tend to weigh more, and live longer, than those raised without fragrant herbs.

Support for BirdNote comes from Bloomsbury - a publisher of natural history books and birding guides. “Critical Critters” by Ralph Steadman and Ceri Levy is available now.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Starlings Say It with Flowers

Written by Rick Wright

This is BirdNote.
[European starling (206992), throughout]
European Starlings are a common sight in suburban yards, waddling methodically through the grass to dig for grubs and other tasty bits.
Watch long enough, though, and you may see a starling pause in the hunt to neatly pluck a marigold or other bright flower — and then fly up to deposit the bloom in the nest.
How romantic. But there’s more to it. Ornithologists have found that starlings regularly adorn their twig nests with fresh vegetation — the more fragrant the better. Marigolds, of course, but also elderberry flowers, yarrow leaves, and even willow bark.
All of which — as your nose will tell you — are full of aromatic chemicals. The starlings are actually fumigating their nests.
Why? The chemicals have been thought to help discourage pests and parasites. Scientists have discovered that the smelly plants may offer an even more direct benefit to nestlings — by stimulating their immune systems.
It turns out that starlings hatched in well-fumigated nests tend to weigh more and live longer than those raised without benefit of fragrant herbs. 
The gift of flowers: romantic and practical all at once.
For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.
Support for BirdNote comes from Bloomsbury, a publisher of natural history books and birding guides. Critical Critters by Ralph Steadman and Ceri Levy is available now.

   ###

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. European Starling [206992] by Greg Budney.
BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Managing Producer: Jason Saul
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
© 2017 Tune In to Nature.org   October 2017
   Narrator: Michael Stein

ID#  EUST-06-2017-10-17      EUST-06

Sights & Sounds

Related topics:

Related field notes:

Home
Shows
Galleries
More