It all started several days ago when Tisen and I were on a typical walk. Noisy European Starling toddlers tormented their parents, which has become a common scene of late.
On this particular day, Tisen charged a starling family grazing on a slope. They flew away together in a little flock, just as one expects. The adults were clearly starlings. The juveniles were all the same shape and size. But there was a flash of unexpected white.
I did a double and then a triple take trying to make sense of what I was seeing–it was a white tail. I have seen thousands of starlings and I have never seen one with a white tail. I have read descriptions of starlings dozens of times and never has anyone mentioned a starling with a white tail.
But, there it was. A bird who acts like a starling, looks like a starling, hangs out with starlings ought to be a starling. It was the right size and shape, but what’s with the white tail?
I could not think of a single possible bird it could have been. I began to think I had either imagined it or the bird had somehow dipped its tail in a bucket of white paint.
Then, two days later, I saw it again. This time, it flew across the path just about 10 feet ahead of me. I watched it whiz by, still harassing its parents, and felt certain it had to be a starling with a white tail.
I asked a knowledgable friend of mine. She asked an ornithologist and informed me that, yes indeed, starlings do, on rare occasions, have white tails. Unfortunately, we were having cell phone challenges and I didn’t catch the explanation. Amazingly, I’ve not had any luck finding an explanation online.
Today, for the third time, I saw the white-tailed juvenile hanging out with its parents in the park. This time, I got a long look at it as Tisen was too groggy to give chase. I even managed to get out my iPhone, unlock it, and bring up the camera app before it flew away. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually get to take a picture first!
This evening, I am on the hunt. It’s like a quest for Big Foot, I think. The elusive white-tailed starling lurks in the park across the street and I aim to catch it in pixels. . .
No luck tonight. I found normal starlings galore. And I saw song sparrows, mocking birds, brow-headed cowbirds, cliff swallows, carolina wrens, and even a downy woodpecker. But, no white-tailed starling.
I did, however, seen another interesting thing. A hawk was circling overhead. When I looked at the photos enlarged, I realized it was probably a red-tailed hawk, but it has a fish in its claws. I never saw that before, either.
Maybe a red-tailed hawk with a fish is like finding Nessy? Big Foot, however, will have to wait for another day.