Starlings and Zirkeln



I’ve been watching the pair of starlings which have taken up residence in my garden now their breeding season has begun. What intrigued me as I looked closer is that as they probe they open their beak to expose food. This seems a very sensible but unusual action; sensible because it’s a good way to expose food when you don’t have two hands to work with, but unusual because of the muscles it must require. After all most animals jaws are built to close not open strongly. So just now I had a quick look on Wikipedia to see what it could tell me about this. It said, starling ‘”probing” involves the bird plunging its beak into the ground randomly and repetitively until an insect has been found, and is often accompanied by bill gaping where the bird opens its beak in the soil to enlarge a hole.’ I thought ‘bill gaping’, there’s a good technical term, but reading on it got even better. ‘This behaviour, first described by Konrad Lorenz (was) given the German term zirkeln.‘ Who knew. This clip of a starling feeding shows you zirkeln in action.





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