11 FEBRUARY 1938, Page 17

* * * * Half a Million Stares In reference

to a census of starling roosts I recorded the other day that the birds proved to be many fewer than the observer had expected on a first impression. There were, for example, so far as I remember, not more than four thousand odd on St. Martin's Church in London. It was perhaps a mistake to infer that estimates of flocks in the country are excessive. Mr. Walter Murray, the Sussex observer whom I quoted, had quite an unusual opportunity for making a census of a particular roost, and it may well be that the flocks which concentrate there at night amount to at least half a million by the time they are all assembled. The estimate of the companies of birds as they fly in can be collated with a reckoning of the numbers when they have perched. Accounts of equally large numbers reach me from Canada, where Mr. Jack Miner, the most famous of sanctuary makers, lost a large plantation of firs by the invincible obstinacy of innumerable flocks of these harpies. All methods of eviction failed and the trees died from the secondary effects of the visitation. The roost of which Mr. Murray made a special study was a dense thicket of rhododendrons about fifteen miles north of Eastbourne. We may hope that this lusty shrub will prove a stronger resister than Mr. Jack Miner's firs.

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