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Pioneer Starling Nesting in Eastern Oregon

Charles W. Quaintance
Publication Information
1 (January-February)
From Field and Study

Pioneer Starling Nesting in Eastern Oregon.-The first verified nesting of the Starling (Stzrrazrs &g&s) near La Grande, Oregon, took place in late. May, 1950. The locality is the Arthur McCall ranch, four miles east of La Grande. The nest site was in an eastward facing flicker hole twelve feet up in a willow tree. Two and sometimes three Starlings were noted in the vicinity of the ranch in the winter and spring. Nesting activity began in early May. A nesting was first attempted in a tree cavity a few feet from the house, hut this was abandoned for the other site. When the nest hole was discovered on May 24, the parents were already feeding young birds. Both parents actively fed the young, usually alternating in appearance at the nest, in both the morning and evening when observations were made. Each parent had its own direction of coming and going to feed the young. The “plee” notes of the adult are varied to announce arrival at the nest, or to express displeasure or alarm, as, for example, when the writer climbed the tree to examine the nest.

There were five young in the nest, at the bottom of the cavity, 15 inches from the bottom of the entrance hole.

On June 3 a young associate reached down the slanting cavity and lifted one out. This nestling fluttered away into the tall cheat grass surrounding the nest tree and was followed in quick succession by the other four. Later, a parent returned to the tree, examined the empty nest, and then flew to hover over some rye grass where apparently a young was hidden.

McCall had been advised to destroy the nesting Starlings in view of their reputation as a pest. However, be takes a naturalist’s interest in being able to watch this historic nesting, especially since the settlement of this region by Starlings appears inevitable. In previous years the writer has collected winter visitant Starlings in the valley.

Of interest are some of the bird associates of the Starling in its Oregon locale. A few yards from its nest site and at the base of a cross-arm on an electric light pole, a pair of Western Kingbirds built a nest. Yellow-throats sing and preen in nearby willows. Marsh Hawks hover over the greasewood, pursued by Brewer Blackbirds. Red-winged Blackbirds, too, are present in low, wet places on the farm. Several species of swallows nest about the ranch buildings and Tree, Barn, and Cliff swallows have all been observed at the Starling nest tree. The one member of the avifauna that seems to be missing may have been the unwilling victim of the Starlings. In past years Red-Shafted Flickers nested on this place, but none was observed here this year.

The habitat in the area of the Starling nesting is a wind-swept sandy loam, with a water table usually less than two feet from the surface. Alkali tends to rise to the ground level, making a situation suitable for hummocks of greasewood (Sarcobatus r~ermiczrlatis) and for areas .of rabbit brush (Chrysothamnus sp.) and pasture grasses.-CHARLES W. QUAINTANCE, Eastern Oregon College, La Grande, Oregon, June 3,1950. 

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