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3931 Views 10 Replies Last post: Mar 16, 2011 3:15 PM by Florin - Museum ID team RSS
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Mar 1, 2011 4:28 PM

Strange bird in Leeds garden

This bird was in my back yard, 1 mile from Leeds city centre at lunchtime today, 1st March.   About the size of a thrush, black wirth fine metalic sheen of green and red and some black speckling on a greyish area below the breast.  A very distinctive, large beak, yellow with a mat black end.  I thought at first it was a big healthy starling with a twig in its mouth.   But binoculars revealed this impressive bill.  It had a rather stubby tail.  We watched it for ten minutes.   It moved its head often in a quizzical manner.   I've never seen anything like it before and found nothing like it in the identification charts for the UK.   Excluding this one, we have seen thirty seven different species of bird in our large garden.   The number jumped from 14 to 28 the year we made a small pool, then again when we stopped clearing the front garden in autumn!    Anyone any ideas re identification, I'd like to add this one to our list!

1st March 2011.jpg

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    Mar 1, 2011 5:02 PM (in response to Rawbrown)
    Re: Strange bird in Leeds garden
    Thats just a common starling i'm pretty sure
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    Mar 3, 2011 11:07 AM (in response to Rawbrown)
    Re: Strange bird in Leeds garden
    Hello there. Could it be a Chough? The beak may be too long though and I know the books always mention their red beak, but they do vary considerably. Try google images.
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      Mar 3, 2011 9:57 PM (in response to Lewis)
      Re: Strange bird in Leeds garden
      I doubt this is a chough, they are only found in southern england for a start and choughs have very distinctive orange bill and feet. Changing my mind from the starling it looks like a spotless starling. A bit like a blackbird witha shorter tail and oilier looking plumage. Have a look on wikipedia
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    Mar 3, 2011 10:21 PM (in response to Rawbrown)
    Re: Strange bird in Leeds garden

    I think it's just a common starling with a deformed beak. If you search on the internet you can find plenty of pictures of starlings (and other birds) with odd-looking beaks.

    See, for example, - http://www.flickr.com/photos/jgk79/102928675/

    Here's one with a similar beak to yours - http://img529.imageshack.us/f/sta42459oc4.jpg/

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    Mar 4, 2011 11:46 AM (in response to Rawbrown)
    Re: Strange bird in Leeds garden
    Perhaps this is just a Starling showing us Darwin in action, but the proportions look a little wrong to me. It has the look of good design rather than a sport.
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      Mar 9, 2011 10:24 AM (in response to Rawbrown)
      Re: Strange bird in Leeds garden

      Whilst I am fairly confident that it is a European Starling, I do suggest that you report it to the Big Garden Beak Watch here:

      http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/gbw/about/background/projects/bgbw .

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      Mar 16, 2011 3:15 PM (in response to Rawbrown)
      Re: Strange bird in Leeds garden

      Hello,

      This is definitely a European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) with a mutation affecting its beak shape. Jaguarondi was spot-on, and the bird in his second photo is the same thing as yours. Even if mutations like this are quite rare, there are millions of starlings in Europe, so birds like this are bound to be seen.

      Judging the size of a bird is often tricky, especially when you deal with an unusual one. The colours match the breeding plumage of Starlings - there's no way you get this on a Blackbird, nor on a Red-billed Chough.

      The slightly blurry picture doesn't allow to see the feather patterns, but the iridescence on the bird's breast is telling, and also excluding the Spotless Starling.

      The colour pattern of the bill, with a darker tip during the breeding season, is also consistent with the European Starling (like in this photo).

      It may not be an extraordinary species, but it's an extraordinary specimen!

      Thanks for sharing!

      Florin

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