Aussie Bird Count

What bird is that? Starlings vs Blackbirds

Wednesday, 18 October 2023

  • Estimated reading time 2min

How to tell the difference between commonly confused birds: Starlings vs Blackbirds

In the leadup to this year’s 10th Aussie Bird Count, our very own National Public Affairs Manager Sean Dooley is talking us through how to tell the difference between commonly confused backyard birds.

In this video, we’re learning all about Starlings – and the easiest ways to tell them apart in different seasons and at different ages.

Find out how to tell a Starling from a Blackbird here.

Put your knowledge to the test and sign up to the Aussie Bird Count.

See below for the full video transcript


00:00:03:00 – 00:00:05:17
The Common Starling is really anything but.

00:00:05:17 – 00:00:08:25
It used to be one of our most common urban birds.

00:00:08:27 – 00:00:10:16
Like a lot of other introduced birds,

00:00:10:16 – 00:00:15:17
it did really well in our industrial cities and our English type gardens,

00:00:15:23 – 00:00:19:15
A lot of people dismiss the Starling because it’s an introduced bird,

00:00:19:18 – 00:00:25:07
but it’s also a very easily confused bird with a few other species

00:00:25:07 – 00:00:30:02
because the starling has several types of plumage, they have a summer plumage

00:00:30:08 – 00:00:33:25
where they bill goes yellow and they get lot of bright iridescence.

00:00:33:27 – 00:00:37:10
And they also have a winter plumage, which is less shiny,

00:00:37:12 – 00:00:41:20
and they also have immature plumage where the birds are brown.

00:00:41:23 – 00:00:45:15
Now this can cause lots of confusion and we find that people mistake starlings

00:00:45:15 – 00:00:49:12
for a lot of native bush birds like Brown Treecreepers

00:00:49:12 – 00:00:53:10
or some of the Woodswallows and the adult Starlings too, specially

00:00:53:10 – 00:00:54:07
in breeding plumage.

00:00:54:07 – 00:00:58:06
When they have a yellow bill, they can get confused for the Blackbird.

00:00:58:08 – 00:01:02:03
But the Blackbird is a bird that usually feeds on the ground

00:01:02:03 – 00:01:03:28
and is close to bushes.

00:01:03:28 – 00:01:08:23
The Starling will feed out on the ground, but they tend to roost up in the trees

00:01:09:03 – 00:01:10:23
and their calls are very different.

00:01:10:23 – 00:01:16:11
Starlings have a sort of very metallic trilling kind of song,

00:01:16:11 – 00:01:20:29
that is also a few chirrs and occasionally a bit of mimicry.

00:01:28:03 – 00:01:31:17
Whereas the Blackbird has the famous, quite beautiful,

00:01:31:17 – 00:01:34:10
melodious call that Paul McCartney

00:01:34:10 – 00:01:36:08
decided to copy.

00:01:40:15 – 00:01:43:24
So watch it when you see a starling in the city,

00:01:43:24 – 00:01:47:12
because they can be deceptively tricky.