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Length 21β21.5 cm (8ΒΌ in), wingspan 37β42 cm, weight 55β100 g
A medium-sized, blackish, short-tailed songbird, often forming huge flocks. Compact shape, with triangular wings in flight. Wide variation in plumage with age, and some variation with time of year. Both sexes similar, although the female is slightly less glossy than the male, and differences in bill colour in spring.
March to August
Adults glossy-black, males with few or even no spots by mid summer, females with somewhat more, though much individual variation
Bill yellow; with pale blue-grey base in males, and pale pinkish-yellow base in females
Adult winter S. v. vulgaris Photo by John King Dordogne, France, December 2016
August to March
Glossed black with a purple and green shine
Tips of the body feathers have large white or buff spots
In late winter, the white spots gradually reduced or lost by feather wear, while the bill turns yellow and the legs turn pink.
Spotless Starling in southwest Europe and northwest Africa is devoid of spots, but there are structural differences in the throat feathers (long and slender in Spotless, short in Common). Spotless Starlings are always blacker than Common Starlings, including the juveniles.
This starling is native to most of Europe and western and central Asia, but in most of the Iberian Peninsula and north Africa only as a winter visitor. A rare winter visitor in eastern Asia, east to southern Japan. Common or abundant in most of its range, but declining due to agricultural intensification particularly in the north of its range; red-listed with severe declines in Britain and most Scandinavian countries.
Very closely related to Spotless Starling and has been treated as conspecific with it; hybrids are common where they overlap in northeast Spain. Not very closely related to other starlings, which have now all been transferred to other genera.
The subspecies vary in colour and extent of gloss; S. v. faroensis is also marginally larger and S. v. granti marginally smaller. The southeastern subspecies S. v. porphyronotus, S. v. humii and S. v. minor are darker and completely unspotted in the breeding season.
Nests in thatches, nest boxes, tree holes. An untidy feather-lined nest is constructed from straw, grass or twigs. The clutch consists of 4-5 pale blue, glossy eggs with. They are incubated for around 2 weeks and flegde about 19-22 days later. Timing within an area is closely co-ordinated, with all pairs fledging their young within a day or at most two of each other and with very little variation from year to year; typically on 20 May in central Britain. The flood of juveniles all fledging simultaneously reduces the risks of predation for each individual. There is usually only one brood in the north of the species' range, but if the first clutch fails they will re-lay; second broods are common in the south of the range. Late and second brood young fledge much later and have a lower survival rate than first broods.