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Is it right that young starlings return to the nest they fledged from to breed themselves?

Sent in by Lynne McBride, Edinburgh

You are lucky to host a pair of breeding starlings in your house. Starlings numbers are still declining, and so they need all the help they can get to survive.

Starlings nest in what can be termed loose colonies, where the nests are spread over an area of a few hectares. The birds you see occupying the nest from one year to the next are likely to be adult birds that had bred in the same colony, even in the same nest hole the previous year, or first time breeders that have arrived from outside the colony. Very few birds that were raised in the colony return to it to breed.

Once young starlings leave the nest, they are unlikely to ever return to it. All birds have an in-built mechanism that reduces the chance that they would mate with their own parents or siblings. The young starlings' instinct tells them to disperse, and that same instinct tells the females and males to travel, on average, different distances to find a colony where to find a mate and raise their own young.

You can help starlings by taking part in our wildlife gardening project: Homes for Wildlife.

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