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mschelly

totally black bird, white spots/speckles on chest

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Along the Schulkill River in SE Pennsylvania, in Norristown, today.  A black bird was facing and above me on a tree branch, so I could only see its breast and its head in profile.  It was all black and the breast had two vertical areas of small white spots or speckles, one set on each side of its breast, about 20 spots each.  Any ideas?

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the speckles were far fewer and larger in two vertical groups (not lines, groups)

the bird was jet black otherwise, although the underside of the tail feathers appeared solid grey.

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mschelly:

the speckles were far fewer and larger in two vertical groups (not lines, groups)

the bird was jet black otherwise, although the underside of the tail feathers appeared solid grey.

Season to season and bird to bird there is a wide variety of amount and arrangement of the spots. Indeed sometimes the birds do look almost totally black with very few spots. Other than a Starling I can't think of any black bird with any spots. Maybe check Google images or something and see if you can find a match.

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This bird had a black or dark grey bill.  Almost all the photos of European Starlings have yellow bills.  Do ESs have black bills, too?

Also, Jeffmcc, when you said, "sometimes the birds do look almost totally black with very few spots," did you mean sometimes ESs do?

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Juvenile and Non-breeding Starlings (like this guy) have darker beaks, but as you can see the non-breeding is usually more heavily speckled. Maybe you got one at just the moment his speckles were fading, but his bill was still dark.

Sturnus_vulgaris_-close_up-8.jpg

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OK, this photo has WAY more spots/speckles than the one I saw, but I see your point.  Do they change from this to total jet black about this time of year in my area?  Are the speckles on the left and right side of the breast the last speckles to fade after the body and head have become jet black?

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If you make the entire bird as black as its breast, yes, the spots are about the right size and adjusting for individual variety, the one I saw had 50% fewer spots, so, OK I'm sold: juvie E. Starling.

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