This year’s Brighton Festival draws heavily from the themes of art and nature, particularly from our winged friends. The RSPB have kindly supplied us with some fascinating facts about starlings and swifts - the inspiration for this year’s Festival imagery. Keep reading and discover 15 more things you never knew about swifts and starlings…
- Between 1995 and 2011, we lost about a third of all the Swifts breeding in the United Kingdom.
- Swifts - the parent birds eat most of their chicks' droppings (possibly to recycle the mineral content); there are no great piles of droppings beneath swift nests.
- An adult Common Swift can eat as many as 40,000 flying insects each day.
- Swifts have four toes, arranged in twos, each pair pointing sideways rather than forwards, a bit like a chameleon or a koala.
- A swift weighs about the same as a Cadbury’s Crème Egg, Crunchy (or any other 40g chocolate bar).
- Swifts’ eyes are deep seated and have moveable bristles in front – sunglasses for reducing glare.
- At about a month old, swift “babies” do press-ups in the nest, lifting themselves up by pushing down on their outstretched wings, probably to build muscle. By the time they’re ready to go, they can hold their bodies clear of the ground like this for several seconds.
- Eugene Schieffelinm and his friends determined to introduce all of the animals mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare to North America and in 1890 released 100 starlings. The species now has a US population of hundreds of millions.
- Starlings look black at a distance but when seen closer they are very glossy with with pale speckles over a sheen of purples and greens, like oil on water.
- The oldest known wild starling was 21 years old.
- Since the mid 1970’s, starling numbers have dropped by about two thirds, making them a red-listed species of conservation concern.
- Once a common sight in both urban and rural areas of Britain, starling numbers have dropped by a staggering 92% in woodlands.
- Each year during autumn, flocks of starlings form across the skies of Britain, creating "dark clouds" above fields, woodlands and reedbed, these are called murmurations. As seen annually from Brighton pier.
- Scientists say the birds flock for a number of reasons including safety, warmth and to "exchange" information such as feeding areas. In winter European starlings migrate to the UK swelling numbers.
- Starlings belong to the family of birds which includes vocal mimics known as myna birds, so they’re capable of imitating man-made sounds like ring-tones and doorbells, or the songs and calls of other birds.
And if that isn't enough facts for you can read Feathered Facts: 15 things you never knew about starlings, swifts and nightingales and also Feathered Facts: 15 more things you never knew about swifts