Starlings

General biology of European Starlings:

Appearance: Stocky black birds with short tails, triangular wings, and long pointed bills. Dark and glossy feathers in summer, white speckled in the winter. Plumage is a purple/green iridescent. Beaks are yellow.

Behavior: Forages and flies in large flocks, aggressive, boisterous and loud. 

Diet: Forages mostly on ground in open areas, probing in soil with bill. Sometimes likes fruit up in trees, sometimes likes catching insects.  With berries and insects, also likes seeds. If available, does prefer insects. Will come to bird feeders.

Habitat: Invasive species from Europe. Common in towns, suburbs, and countryside near human settlements.  Will feed off the ground (lawns, sidewalks etc.) or in trees, buildings etc.

Nesting: 4-6 eggs/clutch. Both parents feed nestlings. Males will sometimes have more than one mate. Nests are in any cavity, usually holes in trees or buildings. 2 broods/year.

Migration: Many northern birds migrate south in fall, most southern birds permanent residents.

Issues caused by European Starlings: 

Negative impact on native hole-nesting birds (i.e., bluebirds), competing for nesting sites.

Eat high protein supplements managers add to food at livestock facilities

Can spread disease between livestock facilities, especially swine

Droppings can pose health risk to humans

  • i.e., fungal respiratory disease histoplasmosis
  • slipping hazards

Cause property damage

  • consume cultivated fruits
  • disturb turf on golf courses as they search for grubs
  • acidic droppings corrosive to building components

Large roosts in urban locations/buildings cause health concerns, filth, noises, odors

Airport safety hazards 

How to manage issues with European Starlings:

Exclude from buildings

  • close any building opening larger than 1 inch
  • rubber strips or PVC in open doorways
  • netting in doorways (can be torn by machinery)
  • place wood/metal/plexiglass at a 45 degree angle over ledges where nesting occurs
  • cover underside of beams with netting, or over fruit crops like grapes or cherries

Edit bird houses to exclude starlings

Clean spilled grain and store in bird proof facilities

Feed animals in covered areas and use forms starlings can’t swallow, such as cubes. Mix supplements in well and adjust schedules to times when starlings aren’t around

Drain unnecessary water pools

Thin tree branches near homes

Frighten birds before they’re attached to the site

  • chemicals
  • noises
  • lights
  • water spray

Create toxic perches or use starlicide, trap, shoot

 

Sources: The Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology bird guide,  Human Society of the United States, Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management, Nest Watch