Birdwatch: Rosy pastor sighted in Scarborough

A rosey starling.
A rosey starling.
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A road in Scarborough became a focus for birdwatchers this week after the discovery of a rosy starling visiting garden bird feeders.

The adult bird, with handsome plumage of a pink body and glossy black head, wings and tail was first seen among common starlings in the garden of 33 Londesborough Road on Sunday and has continued to visit the garden this week.

Rosy starlings are also known as rosy pastors because their plumage was compared to old fashioned clerical vestments.

The nearest regular breeding colonies to this country are in the Balkans and the main strongholds are east of the Black Sea and throughout central Asia to western China.

This month they move south in huge numbers to spend the winter in India and Sri Lanka but a few regularly move in the wrong direction to Western Europe,

Around 30 are seen in the UK each year while there have been records as far north as Iceland.

Some, usually juveniles, have successfully overwintered here. The juveniles lack the adults’ colourful plumage being a sandy grey with a short yellowish bill, and dark wings contrasting with the pale body.

Rosy starlings have also bred occasionally in Italy but so far there have been no signs of them expanding their breeding range further west.

This is probably due to a lack of insect food, particularly grasshoppers, to feed their nestlings.

In Central Asia they are cherished because of the huge amounts of grasshoppers, which in some species can become locusts, that they consume.

It has been estimated that a breeding colony of 3,000 rosy starlings is capable of harvesting 2.5 to three tones of grasshoppers in a single day so it is not surprising that they are regarded so highly.

The most recent record this year before the Scarborough bird was one in a garden at Billingham, Teesside in June while another was seen the same month in Durham. Others have also been seen this year in Glamorgan, Argyll, Suffolk, Kent, and Dover.

Another vagrant from the crags and cliffs of southern Europe, an Alpine swift, has been seen again on several occasions this week over the RSPB’s Bempton Cliffs reserve and also over Buckton. Inland an adult dotterel was present this week in a ploughed field at Peat Pits off Bolsterstone Road, Sheffield.

The Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union Bird Report for 2013 is now available. The 232-page book covers every bird recorded in Yorkshire during 2013 along with a galley of excellent full colour photographs by local bird photographers.

To order by post send a cheque for £14.50 payable to the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union to Jill Warwick, Sharrow Grange, Sharrow, Ripon HG4 5BN. The report can also be purchased at Spurn Bird Observatory, the RSPB shops at Old Moor and Bempton Cliffs, and the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust at North Cave Wetlands and Potteric Carr.