European starlings have been harvesting the trove of black olives that grow in batches on nearly every branch of the tree out back.
Normally, the olives merely fall to the ground and rot, so it’s nice to see the birds using them for sustenance. They take them and fly to the ground, where they shake them violently in their beaks until they split into bite-sized chunks.
The starlings’ plumage is iridescent and more or less echoes the color of the olives. Their dark feathers are offset by a caramel trim along their outer wings, with their bodies speckled in earth tones as if by an artist’s brush.
Their beaks resemble candy corn, with the lower and middle sections the color of pumpkin and the tip dark like a burned matchstick. Come summer, after breeding season, their beaks turn black entirely, and their feathers take on a matte charcoal color.
European starlings travel in groups. On a slow day, a good dozen or so ornament the deciduous trees in my yard like pine cones.
Although I live in the starlings’ year-round territory (Nevada), this is the first time I’ve spotted them in my yard or anywhere else in the Las Vegas metro area.
The New Stokes Field Guide to Birds of the Western Region says that European starlings’ habitat consists of urban and suburban areas, and The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America says they are “one of the most common birds around human settlement.” But that is not really the case in Southern Nevada.