Rose-coloured Starling (2018)
- nomads from the east
- Asian recoveries of Rose-coloured Starlings ringed in Europe
Figure 1. Rose-coloured Starlings on the move, 18 May 2018, Armenia (Gerjon Gelling)
Boy, was I thrilled when my mate Thijs and I found small flocks of Rose-coloured Starlings on the plains of the Hortobagy, Hungary back in the summer of 1995. I'd seen a few drab young vagrants in Holland, but finding adults (with recently fledged juvs) was something else. Now a serious invasion seems to be building up in Europe in the spring of 2018. A great excuse to dig into the movements between Europe and Asia.
Rose-coloured Starling is primarily a central Asian steppe breeder. The natural grasslands of eastern Europe are on the western limits of its breeding range. The species winters on the Indian Subcontinent (Craig & Feare 2018). They feed their young with grasshoppers and locusts and breed where food is in abundance. The availability of food on the plains varies from year to year and therefore they are nomadic breeders. But when food is scarce over larger areas within their core range, irruptions outside the usual range can reach Europe. Vagrants have occurred in many countries both east and west of the (core) range, in Europe as far NW as Iceland. Big invasions in (eastern) Europe are known from 1853, 1907-1909, 1925, 1932 and 1948. From the 2nd half of the 20th century invasions seemed to occur less frequently, but 2002 was a major year (Newton 2008). With 36 records (incl. 24 in June-July), 2002 was also the best year so far for the Netherlands (dutchavifauna.nl)
The Asian connection
There are three records of Rose-coloured Starlings ringed in Europe that were recovered in Asia (Figure 2). All were ringed in Hungary, in the same year: 1925 (du Feu et al 2009).
Ringing recovery data
Ringed: 10 July 1925 (full grown), central Hungary (between Budapest and Hortobagy)
Recovered: 10 July 1936, SE Uzbekistan
Distance: 3910 km
Ringed: 30 June 1925 (pullus), central Hungary (between Budapest and Hortobagy)
Recovered: 28 April 1926, NE Pakistan
Distance: 4914 km
Ringed: 9 July 1925 (pullus), north Hungary (near Tokaj)
Recovered: 5 September 1925, W Georgia
Distance: 1710 km
Figure 2. Rose-coloured Starlings ringed in Europe (orange) and recovered in Asia (red). The blue dots represent the only Dutch recovery, of a migrant trapped in Germany that spent the following winter in the Netherlands.
Ringing recoveries of this species are scarce. The recoveries presented here are all from the species' known range. They do however seem to imply that breeding on (or perhaps beyond) the edges of their regular range has no impact on their orientation - at least not in these individuals (which hardly is surprising for a nomadic breeder). The Pakistan record for instance shows that a bird that fledged in Hungary was capable of finding its way to the core wintering range of the species.
That all ringing records originate from 1925 first raised an eyebrow, but, as mentioned, this was a particular good year for the species in Europe.
Please note that I got (bought...) this data from EURING. The EURING Data Bank only holds records of birds ringed in Europe (incl. Russia), so birds ringed outside Europe that were recovered within our continent are not included. I couldn't find any records of Rose-coloured Starlings ringed in Asia and recovered in Europe in articles or books, but it's easy to miss a reference. If anyone knows of such a record, I'd love to learn more about it.
Figure 3. Rose-coloured Starlings on the move, 18 May 2018, Armenia (Gerjon Gelling)
I am grateful to the European Union for Bird Ringing (EURING) which made the recovery data available through the EURING Data Bank and to the many ringers and ringing scheme staff who have gathered and prepared the data.
Craig, A. & Feare, C. (2018). Rosy Starling (Pastor roseus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/60856 on 2 June 2018).
Dutch Avifauna (website): ttps://www.dutchavifauna.nl/species/roze_spreeuw
du Feu, C.R., Joys, A.C., Clark, J.A., Fiedler, W., Downie, I.S., van Noordwijk, A.J., Spina, F., Wassenaar, R. & Baillie, S.R. (2009) EURING Data Bank geographical index 2009. (http://www.euring.org/edb).
Newton, I. 2008. The migration ecology of birds. Academic Press, London/Burlington/ San Diego.