Adults are strikingly tri-colored, with a black back and tail and a red head and neck. Their underparts are mainly white. The wings are black with white secondary remiges. Adult males and females are identical in plumage. Juveniles have very similar markings, but have an all grey head. While red-bellied woodpeckers have some bright red on the backs of their necks and heads, red-headed woodpeckers have a much deeper red that covers their entire heads and necks, as well as a dramatically different overall plumage pattern.
According to an article published in Ibis, the availability of food affects the coloration of feathers in nestlings. The article focused on the correlation between melanin spots and carotenoid-based coloration on the wings of nestlings with food stress via indirect manipulation of brood size. The article found that there was a positive correlation between the quality of the nestlings’ diet and T-cell-mediated immune response. T-cell-mediated immune response was found to be positively correlated with brightness of pigmentation in flight feathers, but not related to melanin spot intensity.
Their breeding habitat is marshy lakes and ponds. They nest in dense marsh vegetation near water. The female builds the nest out of grass, locating it in tall vegetation to hide it from predators. A typical brood contains 5 to 15 ducklings. Pairs form each year.
They are migratory and winter in coastal bays and unfrozen lakes and ponds.
These birds dive and swim underwater. They mainly eat seeds and roots of aquatic plants, aquatic insects and crustaceans.
The species has declined in numbers in parts of northern and western Europe since the 1980s due to fewer grassland invertebrates being available as food for growing chicks. Despite this, its huge global population is not thought to be declining significantly, so the common starling is classified as being of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Bold and inquisitive, this bird is readily approachable by humans. The bird is frequently observed using a small chip of bark held in its beak as a tool to dig for insects.
During the fall migration and winter, chickadees often flock together. Many other species of birds, including titmice, nuthatches, and warblers can often be found foraging in these flocks. Mixed flocks stay together because the chickadees call out whenever they find a good source of food. This calling out forms cohesion for the group, allowing the other birds to find food more efficiently.