There’s a great buzz or feeling when you think you have found something really exotic and rare, that doesn’t seem to feature in any field guide. Starlings wouldn’t normally fall into this category.

The Starlings bill shape and length is ideal for extracting nectar from the New Zealand Flax (c. Dick Coombes)

An exotic looking bird sporting a luminous orange head, would appear to fit the bill: apart from the flame coloured crown, the birds are otherwise fairly drab, greyish or beige in colour, often without any other distinctive markings evident. They are of course, young Starlings, the most recently fledged birds are the plainest, later on in the summer the lines of pale spots on dark ribbons of plumage brings the birds closer to the more familiar autumn/winter plumage of an adult Starling.

The rich orange head and crown on starlings is a residue of pollen, picked up by the birds in the course of foraging for nectar from the Phormium tenax or New Zealand Flax as it is also known.  The plant has tough, leathery, sword shaped leaves which can grow to 3 meters long, though cultivars of Phormium tenax are neater and sport a range of different leaf colour combinations.  The rigid flower stalks  can add up to 5 meters onto the height of a plant.  The tube like flowers are bright red and produce large  quantities of nectar to attract birds such as starlings, whose beak seems to be ideal in shape and length for accessing the flowers and collecting nectar, and pollen.

A ribbon of black and white adult feathers just showing on the belly. (c. Dick Coombes)

As well as Starlings, House Sparrows are known to visit the plants, I wonder have you noticed any more species availing of this source of food? 

Often taken for granted: An adult Starling is resplendent with iridescent plumage and delicate pattern of spots and chevrons (c.Oran O’Sullivan)