This is the time to witness the flight of Rosy Starlings as the seasonal migratory birds make their way across the northern region
For the past two weeks the Delhi sky has been covered with hundreds of Rosy Starlings performing acrobatic feats before perching on nearby trees. These winter visitors will be soon leaving for their summer homes in Eastern Europe.
Rosy Starling is a passerine bird often seen flocking together in large numbers with Chestnut Starlings and Jungle Mynas. With whom they roost at night in trees and bushes. Although it is a migrant species, it has been observed that most of the times it exceeds the density of local inhabitant species. It closely resembles our Common Myna in its body proportion and habits.
So if one doesn't look carefully, one may mistake it for the Common Myna. The Rosy Starling adult males have a characteristic blackish head with shaggy crest, pinkish body and under parts, with black colour on the wings, head and tail region. The winter plumage is slightly dull in colour in the males, while females on the other hand, have a short crest, duller plumage and a not very clearly demarcated boundary between pink and black. The juveniles can be easily identified by their sandy brown colour on the under parts, with stout yellow bill, and broad pale fringes to wing feathers.
Every year at the end of July their journey begins from summer breeding grounds in the Steppes to other parts of the world. Throughout the year, it winters in India and temperate South East Asia. It is a passage migrant in Pakistan and northern India. During April end, these flocks migrate back in large numbers to their breeding grounds in the open Steppes of Eastern Europe in search of adequate food resource. It breeds actively between May and July.
Rosy Starlings are social birds known for breeding in large colonies, and migrating in large flocks. It has a loud clear flight call ki-ki-ki. The nest is often placed in between stones or in crevices in rocks, at times in an old nest or even in tree hole. The act of nest building is performed by both male and female. The female lays three to six eggs of pale blue colour which are incubated by both adults, but mainly by females in the flock, with the incubation period lasting around two weeks. The young ones are fed by both parents and the nesting period lasts for about three weeks. Though the juveniles still depend on adults for a short period after they leave the nest, it is the adults who leave the breeding ground before the juveniles. Rosy Starlings feed mainly on flightless locusts and grasshoppers, but other insects such as bugs, ants, beetles and caterpillars also form part of their menu. Once the breeding season is over, it forages on fruits, seeds and nectar from flowers.
In China, research conducted on Rosy Starlings in the1980s found that they primarily feed on flightless locusts in the fields. In order to attract them to their fields, farmers built artificial nests. Not only did this practice help in elimination of locusts from the field which were considered one of the main crop pests, it also helped in reducing dependence on insecticide for elimination of locust population from the fields. By the end of the 20 century, application of insecticide to the crops was decreased to a great extent.
Seasonal migration in Rosy Starlings has been going on for years and has proved to be of great help in different parts of the world. Let us hope this journey will continue in the same way for years to come.