A starling surprise

Kevin Collins

Kevin Collins


On a Monday night in March 2012, Chris Wilson was giving a talk in Cashel library about his great uncle, Edward Wilson, who died with Scott in the Antarctic, exactly one hundred years ago. After the talk, Mickey McDonell from Cashel, showed Chris a photo of a bird and wanted to know what it was. He took the photo some years before at Upper Friar Street, Cashel, where he feeds garden birds all year round. The bird was feeding on the ground. In order to get a better shot, they put some food on the lid of a wheelie-bin and got this photograph.

The bird was a Rose-coloured Starling which is rare in Ireland. When I saw the photo of a stunning adult, I was delighted to hear it was taken in Co. Tipperary. It was like one of those moments on the antiques roadshow, when someone presents an old piece of jewellery and it turns out to be by worth a fortune.

So we knew what it was and where it was seen but when was the picture taken? Thankfully, it was the original print and, included amongst a lot of other data, the date was printed on the back – 6th August 2002. So this lovely record popped up ten years later. What a stroke of luck that he fed his birds all year round, that he was also a photographer and that he chose to come to the talk and bring along his picture of a strange bird.

The Rose-coloured Starling breeds widely in Russia, Ukraine and Turkey with some breeding in Greece and Hungary. In winter, they migrate southeast to India and Sri Lanka. Occasionally, huge numbers arrive in Europe and 2002 was one of those years. In Ireland, one or two are seen in most years but in 2002, there were over 20 sightings. These are often juvenile birds which can be difficult to separate from the juveniles of our common starlings.

Interestingly, this was not the first record for Co. Tipperary. According to Birds of Ireland (Ussher & Warren, 1900) one was captured alive at Ballybrado, Cahir in June 1833; one was seen at Longfield, Cashel, 7th June 1834.

Note. Sunday, April 29: BirdWatch Outing to Derryvella Bog, near Littleton.  Meet at the Derryvella Car Park at 2.30 pm. (see map on web-site birdwatchtipp.com)