“Let’s cut down the starling roost!” Who made that decision?

For years starlings have been roosting just down the road from my house in a large clump of bamboo during the winter. It’s in the front garden of a block of flats in a busy residential road. If  you happen to walk past at dusk you will see a couple of hundred starlings gathering in the sky. However, I should really say “could see” because in January (between our two coldest bits of weather) it was cut down. I was so angry and upset that it’s taken me until now to tell their story.

What is left of the starling roost

The brown bit (next to the telegraph pole) is where the bamboo used to stand

Starlings can feed up to 10 miles away from their roost during the day but at dusk the family group will always return to the safety and warmth of their roost. As it starts to get darker the numbers increase and what looks like a giant swarm of bees dances around in the sky before plunging into their roost like little torpedos.

Luckily on the 12 of January I’d taken my camera and filmed the starlings as they came in to roost. The film is 4 mins long (longer than my normal films – sorry) and shows the shape-shifting starlings zooming around above the houses. The sound track is actually the sound of them in the roost. I placed my camera near to the roost and walked a few steps back – but I thought it was an apt backing track for the film!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

So why did it happen? why was the roost cut down? and why was it done in such a cold patch of weather? Well I’ve heard from another resident that the next door neighbour wasn’t a fan of the starlings and had asked that they be “moved on” because they were noisy and dirty. They didn’t seem to make a lot of mess as they came in (but maybe I’m wrong) and yes they were noisy for a few minutes when they arrived, but that soon died down to total silence. However the timing of the bamboo being cut does seem to show a real lack of understands of how fine a line these birds are walking at this time of year – if they had only left it until the warmer weather came (mid-March) the birds would have found it a lot easier to survive, instead of being left in sub-zero temperatures with no home!

I rang the RSPB to ask their advice (this was before the roost was destroyed) and contacted Dorset Wildlife Trust. Both told me that although starlings (and all birds) and their nest sites are protected, their roosts aren’t. Both organisations were sorry that they couldn’t help more. However, this seems to suggest that if you want to make hundreds of starlings homeless at the coldest time of the year… go ahead… you aren’t breaking the law. It seems mad to me. Starling numbers have dropped by a massive 66% since the 1970’s and they are now a “red list species” but when they come into conflict with man (or woman) – then they must go… with no thought to their welfare.

I feel frustrated and angry that I couldn’t protect wildlife that was practically on my doorstep but if this post is read by just ONE person who’s thinking of cutting a roost down, then maybe, just maybe it will have done some good.

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21 thoughts on ““Let’s cut down the starling roost!” Who made that decision?

  1. I’m appalled – I had no idea that it was permitted to destroy a roost. As you say starling numbers have plummeted and yet there’s no law to protect their roosts? As you can hear, I’m gob-smacked. Unbelievable.

    • I know. I was appalled when I found out – I felt sure there must be something in place to protect them… but oh no! No wonder they are having such a hard time and their numbers are going down so much! (reduced 66% since the mid 1970’s in the UK).

  2. It’s a dreadful and sad indictment on our society that the need to be rid of anything seen as noisy or dirty (but not really harmful IMHO), is put before the needs of living creatures. I wish there was some system of “planning permission” for removing plants/structures that offered sanctuary to birds and animals so this could be avoided – hopefully!

    • Yes, I quite agree. In the summer this same bamboo stand was full of sparrows (another bird that has taken a bashing over the last few years). Lets hope that if it is allowed to grow again I can convince the neighbour that the starlings should stay (if they ever come back!)

  3. I’ve just been catching up, as I’ve not been over here for some time (haven’t been visiting much anywhere recently!)

    This is such a sad and depressing thing to have happened. Must have made you feel so angry and helpless.

    At least you have spring and those lovely bats to cheer you up!

    • Sorry Dragonstar, didn’t mean to depress you! It’s taken me ages to actually write this because I was so angry and useless. It’s frustrating because everyone else who lived near to it seemed quite happy with it – even thought of it as “their starlings”. It was very sad.

  4. Glad you’re OK after falling out of the apple tree (on Paula’s blog) Occasionally that has happened to me and I find it quite funny after it’s happened when you’re lying on the ground realizing that nothing has broken!

    Re the starlings, what a disgrace. I would give anything to see starlings again here in the garden. Never ever see one round here.

    Last year, in a nearby field which had been fallow for years, the skylarks had started nesting and singing. Then the tenant farmer came along and ploughed. The RSPB were less than helpful when I asked for their advice and assistance on the legalities of this destruction.

    PS Play your starling sound track at full blast at the NIMBY starling person!! Just a mischievous suggestion.

    • Thanks Mary… I wish I was! After I wrote that comment at Paula’s I’ve somehow put my back out (something to do with the tree-falling experience – who knows?) All I was doing was bending over to put something on the floor… and ping! Now I’m hobbling around like an old woman.

      Although we had the roost up the road we hardly ever got the starlings in our garden… even less chance now!

      How awful about your skylarks (I love skylarks). It’s so frustrating that there just doesn’t seem to be the framework of sensible regulations that could give these birds the protection they really need. People will moan when they have completely disappeared!

      I might just do that (playing the soundtrack). Personally I’d love that sound for a few minutes each day!

    • My god, pooping sparrows Pete! Can’t you control them? It’s really frustrating isn’t it but I guess it’s just a lack of understanding (or a willingness to understand) that is the cause in the majority of cases. Sad though.

  5. What is the matter with people? Having witnessed the bamboo starling tribe for myself, it was just fascinating waiting and watching for them to come tumbling in and then, as they settled, listening as the chirping softened and eventually quietened. Well, it is very quiet now and I hope that ‘neighbour’ is proud of him/herself!

    • Hi Chris. Oh they are probably over the moon. They got their way. I still see a few of the starlings circling over the old roost at dusk. Really sad.

  6. I’m disgusted that one thoughtless selfish person can cause this pointless destruction. And presumably although most people wouldn’t want it, we all paid for it to be done! How disappointing and frustrating!

    • Hi Andrew. Yes, very frustrating. I don’t think it was council land (I could be wrong) so we didn’t really pay for it, but it was the timing that was unbelievable. Jane

  7. Pingback: Homeless « My Dorset

  8. How unfortunate that those bamboos were cut down in the first place and that too in the middle of winter. Thereby destroying a home for a 1000 startlings in a rash mindless act.

    • Hi Thomas. Thanks for your comment. It was a great shame, but hopefully they will grow again and I will be able to convince them they shouldn’t cut it down again! Jane

  9. regarding the destruction of the starling roost sight.unfortunately some humans have a negative response towards wildlife and think that they should be the only ones living on this planet

    • No, in the UK they are a native bird that is in decline. They don’t do any damage to other birds as far as I know, but some call them a “nuisance” when they have their roosts in built up areas. Personally I love the roost I have in my garden in the winter and the pair that nest nearby in the summer.

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