Starlings are small to medium-sized passerine birds in the family Sturnidae. The name “Sturnidae” comes from the Latin word for starling, sturnus. Many Asian species, particularly the larger ones, are called mynas, and many African species are known as glossy starlings because of their iridescent plumage. Starlings are native to the Old World, from Europe, Asia and Africa, to northern Australia and the islands of the tropical Pacific. Several European and Asian species have been introduced to these areas as well as North America, Hawaii and New Zealand, where they generally compete for habitats with native birds and are considered to be invasive species. The starling species familiar to most people in Europe and North America is the common starling, and throughout much of Asia and the Pacific, the common myna is indeed common.
Starlings have strong feet, their flight is strong and direct, and they are very gregarious. Their preferred habitat is fairly open country, and they eat insects and fruit. Several species live around human habitation and are effectively omnivores. Many species search for prey such as grubs by “open-bill probing”, that is, forcefully opening the bill after inserting it into a crevice, thus expanding the hole and exposing the prey; this behaviour is referred to by the German verb zirkeln.
Plumage of many species is typically dark with a metallic sheen. Most species nest in holes and lay blue or white eggs.
Starlings have diverse and complex vocalizations and have been known to embed sounds from their surroundings into their own calls, including car alarms and human speech patterns. The birds can recognize particular individuals by their calls and are currently the subject of research into the evolution of human language.
The diets of the starlings are usually dominated by fruits and insects. Many species are important dispersers of seeds in continents Asia and Africa, for example white sandalwood, Indian Banyan. In addition to trees they are also important dispersers of parasitic mistletoes. In South Africa, the red-winged starling is an important disperser of the introduced Acacia cyclops. Starlings have been observed feeding on fermenting over-ripe fruit, which led to the speculation that they might become intoxicated by the alcohol. Laboratory experiments on European starlings have found that they have disposal enzymes that allow them to break down alcohol very quickly. In addition to consuming fruits, many starlings will also consume nectar. The extent to which starlings are important pollinators is unknown, but at least some are, such as the slender-billed starling of alpine East Africa, which pollinates giant lobelias.
(Font: Australian Wikipedia)