Friday, October 19, 2012

The Starlings in My Front Yard

There was a tree that grew in my front yard. As it became big it killed other surrounding plants because its extending leaves and branches denied other plants like guava, bushes and weeds the life-sustaining rays of the sun. The medium-sized softwood tree which is called “alum” by the locals is now fully grown.

Birds and insects are attracted to the flowers and fruit of the tree. Small insects fly into the small flowers to sip their nectar, and small birds perch on branches and twigs to spot fruits and eat them. Birds seem to relish the tiny fruits that are too small and insignificant for humans or other animals to consider for consumption. The tree has also become the roosting place for free range chickens in the evening. For me, it has become an object where I can do bird watching at the convenience of my home.

The presence of trees especially on the higher ground of our family’s compound area made them the sojourns or roosts of some species of small birds. Warblers, sparrows, swiftlets, pied fantails, zebra doves, humming birds, starlings and other birds fly to the trees to perch and eat fruits. Some of them are residents to our compound and nearby areas while others are just visitors. The chirps of the birds are pleasantly audible during dawn and dusk. I can also hear the songs and the mating calls of some of the birds during the day. Their sounds really brighten up my day.                              

At present there is a species of small bird that catch my attention. It is the starling which is called “tusing” by the locals. Although the starlings are indigenous and endemic to my locality, it is only recently that I have gotten a close look on them. The birds used to dwell in wooded areas farther from human habitations. But as the area of their habitat dwindled due to urban development and expansion, the birds have adopted to dwell near or in built up areas that have still plants and trees where they can get their foods from.                                                                                                                                                                         

The tree that I mentioned at first attracted only the birds that usually visit our compound area. But later I noticed that small black figures were swiftly landing on the twigs and branches, and flew away fast at the slightest presence of anything that scared them. Nevertheless, they become frequent visitors of the tree because they enjoy eating its fruits. Mid morning is their favorite visiting period. Although they have become accustomed to the presence of humans who leave them alone, the birds still keep their distance and flee when humans and other animals get too close to them.                                                                                                         

I came to know later that the name of the bird is the Philippine Glossy Starling. It is a small black bird. The juvenile however has brownish feathers in its upper body and a grayish and brown streaked underside.  Overtime, the plumage turns to black when the young birds become fully mature. The sound of the starling is somewhat similar to that of a whistle of a grown-up male person. One of the starling's most distinguishing features is its scary-looking bloodshot eyes.