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Community representatives from across Brighton & Hove came together at Waterhall on 7 October to celebrate the return of starlings to the city

Community representatives from across the city came together at Waterhall on 7 October to celebrate the return of starlings to the city. The ‘Welcome Back’ event, organised by the #SaveOurStarlings campaign, marks the imminent arrival of thousands of migrant starlings that join the local starling flock at this time of year.

Once again, the campaign is giving away 100 starling bird nest boxes to schools, local organisations and community groups which are carefully selected for their locations close to where starlings visit.

Starlings flocking together and swooping across the sky in different patterns – known as a murmuration – has become a familiar feature in Brighton & Hove but is in danger of disappearing. 

Long-term monitoring shows that starling numbers have fallen by around 87% over the last 30 to 40 years in the UK and Brighton & Hove. Because of this decline, the starling is on the ‘red list’ as a bird of high conservation concern.

Reversing the decline

Good insect populations, foraging areas, and nesting sites are key to helping them recover.

Council leader Phélim Mac Cafferty opened the event. He said: “The sight of murmurations around Brighton’s piers and over the sea inspire so many of us in the winter months, capturing the wonder and vibrancy of nature in the city. 

“It is also a stark reminder of our city’s precarious wildlife and why we must do everything we can to protect biodiversity. Sadly, we know that the dazzling sight of starlings in flight masks their plummeting numbers.

“The reality of biodiversity breakdown means that we need to take bold action. Just last week we agreed £7.8m of spending from our Carbon Neutral Fund which includes projects specifically linked to enriching our city’s biodiversity. Individuals and communities are also taking action, in gardens, schools and on the city’s allotments.”

The council is helping to provide food and shelter for starlings and other endangered wildlife through a network of biodiversity projects.

These include Wilder Verges,  where more than 20 street verges were managed for wildlife during this spring and summer, City of Meadows, where schools are sowing wildflowers in their grounds, creating bee bus stops and including bee bricks and swift boxes in new developments through local planning policies.

Collective action to restore wildlife

Waterhall, where the event took place, is a former golf course which is now being managed by the council’s rangers as a nature reserve. A recent survey revealed 650 or so different species of invertebrate, including 40 different species of bee, 25 different butterflies and an 202 types of beetle.  

Councillor Jamie Lloyd, Brighton & Hove’s lead councillor for biodiversity said: “It is inspiring to see so many people in Brighton & Hove and our partner organisations coming together to take positive action for nature.

“Collective actions such as putting up starling nest boxes are making a difference, and they offer opportunities for everyone to experience the nature on our doorstep. Today is World Mental Health Day and having access to nature helps people restore mentally as well as physically in these extremely challenging times.

Biodiversity is our planet’s life support system. Restoring nature underpins the health and wellbeing of people and wildlife in an era of climate change.”

The starling nest box scheme has been supported by Brighton Palace Pier, The Living Coast and Brighton & Hove Environmental Education.

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